By USANEE MONGKOLPORN
THE NATIONAL Council for Peace and Order has allowed the National Broadcasting and Telecommunic-ations Commission to use the universal-service obligation (USO) fund to develop telecom projects for the public, deputy Prime Minister ACM Prajin Juntong has s
This indicates that the watchdog can resume using the fund to finance the planned project of providing broadband Internet access in rural areas.
Originally the USO fund had Bt34.8 billion before the watchdog loaned Bt13.5 billion to the Finance Ministry to finance road and water projects, leaving Bt21.3 billion in the fund.
In 2014 the NCPO told the NBTC to suspend its plan to use the USO fund, pending its complete scrutiny of the NBTC’s overall budget spending.
During that period the regulatory body announced the plan to install a broadband network nationwide in rural areas, starting in Nong Kai and Pitsanuloke provinces.
TOT won the project bid with a Bt441 million offer.
Prajin, who is also acting Digital Economy and Society minister, said that the NCPO recently told the regulator to resume the rural broadband project but the NBTC would have to revise the project’s details to meet the real Internet demand of rural areas.
The project’s development has to be in harmony with the ministry’s planned rural broadband project.
“The NBTC and the ministry have to coordinate together. The ministry will focus on rolling out the core broadband Internet network nationwide, while the NBTC project should focus on the border areas. Both projects will fulfil the government plan to bridge the digital divide,” Prajin said.
The ministry’s rollout of the nationwide broadband service, at a cost of Bt15 billion, will cover 30,000 villages.
It is revising conditions to procure the project developer, following Prajin’s request.
Prajin wants the ministry to finish the revision this year and launch the project next September.
Takorn Tantasith, the NBTC secretary-general, said that the NBTC office was waiting for an official letter from the NCPO giving it the go ahead to use the USO fund.
He will propose the ministry use the USO fund to finance the ministry’s rollout of the broadband service.
At present the ministry plans to use a state budget to finance the |project.
TOT is also keen to win the bid for the ministry’s broadband rollout after the TOT board recently approved a Bt9.8 billion budget to join the bidding.