The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buzz of anger on access deficit fee

New Delhi, Oct. 14: Private telecom operators are up in arms against the telecom regulator’s plan to impose access deficit charge (ADC) this month as they fear that it would benefit only one player — Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. The charge, however, will have no impact on subscribers.

All private telecom players, who were supposed to provide rural telephony and did not, will have to pay up ADC charges to compensate BSNL for telecom services which it provides to rural areas at a loss to itself.

BSNL itself will not have to pay up any money to the pool as it is the only telecom company which has gone into rural areas in a big way, one of the telecom license conditions set by the government.

The private telecom operators want the government-owned telecom company to make its accounting on this issue public with separate accounts for all the services it offers. They allege that the deficit BSNL is showing on this score is not as huge as claimed.

Trai officials said that the cost of ADC has come down from Rs 13,500 crore calculated in 2001 to Rs 2,500 crore in 2003. This will be reflected in the directive to be given by the regulator with the proposed charges.

“The operators should not have a negative attitude about the ADC since it is aimed to help the sector and is not biased in favour of any company. We cannot comment any further since the final order will be announced in a few days,” said a senior member of Trai.

But the operators obviously do not agree with even this. They argue, this is an unnecessary burden since there already exists a fund (universal service obligation fund) for the same purpose at a fixed rate.

A senior executive in Association of Basic Telecom Operators (ABTO) said: “The total deficit on account of rural lines should be made public. This is important since BSNL does not have separate accounting norms for its rural service. And ADC is supposed to be for recovering losses to BSNL, although BSNL is a profit making organisation.”

Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the apex body of cellular operators, has questioned the various schemes BSNL is launching where the rental amount is reduced substantially on commercial considerations and not for any social reasons.

“Its for the Trai to examine before they announce the ADC whether the losses on only rural lines are to be considered or all lines (irrespective of urban-rural divide) are to be taken into consideration while arriving at the deficit amount,” said a senior executive in COAI.

The operators also said that the business plan of the companies face a risk since it is not clear whether only BSNL will be given ADC.

They have suggested that, once the total amount is determined, this can be collected as a surcharge on the revenue share they pay to the government as part of their license condition. The whole idea is that the ADC fund can be collected as a percentage of revenue just as USO is.

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