Government to collect tax to fund telecoms in rural areas

Funds will be collected from a tax on telecoms operators starting in June to extend the telecommunications network to remote areas of the country that do not yet have access, said an official of the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

The Telecommunications Law, section 54 states that the ministry can establish and supervise a Universal Service Fund to fulfill basic telecoms services in the public interest in any location by implementing universal service plans.

Deputy Director General U Myo Swe of the Department of Post and Telecommunication said that it expects the Universal Service Fund to start collecting money from operators in June.

“The preparation processes to collect the Universal Service Fund from telecoms operators is nearly finished.” U Myo Swe said.

“We’ll collect 2 percent of the income of the operators. We expect to begin in June,” he added.

The department drafted the Universal Service Strategy with the help of a consultant hired by the World Bank according to the provisions of the Telecommunication Law and sought public comment on the plan in February.

The telecoms network is now available to nearly 90 percent of the country’s population, and telecoms services are put at the disposal of residents in areas lacking telecommunications network if telecommunications infrastructure is already in place.

“The current network covers over 90pc of Myanmar’s population. But for those areas that cannot get access to the network, network towers will be built with the Universal Service Fund from the operators,” said U Myo Swe.

“Other telecommunications services will be available once the basic infrastructure is built,” the deputy director general said.

Supporting rural areas’ access to the network via the fund contributes to the regions and the country, said local business owners.

“This should be done. For non-profitable areas, funds should be allocated.

This is contributing not only to the region but also to the country,” said U Zaw Zaw Myo Lwin, executive officer of Yangon Heartz Media, a local technology company.

The ministry will target 94pc communication coverage for the population by the first quarter of 2019, according to state media, and a further increase to 99pc through the Universal Service Fund.

Currently, telecommunications operators include state-owned MPT, Telenor Myanmar, Oredoo Myanmar and Mytel.

Telephone density in 2015-2016 was 86.20pc, which rose to 110.44pc in 2017-2018.

Source: Myanmar Times

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