Arya named USOF head after BharatNet fiasco

Ansuli Arya has been appointed as the new administrator of Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) that looks after the funding part of the government telecom projects, a move largely seen as an action by the PMO after the BharatNet project faced delays and poor implementation.

Arya, a 1989 batch IAS officer from the Bihar cadre replaces the current incumbent Sanjay Singh.

Singh' s future posting is yet to be given. Major changes in the USOF was expected after PMO expressed dissatisfaction over the implementation of its flagship programme, BharatNet, where BSNL had raised funding problems with the USOF and along with work allocation and demarcation. issues. BharatNet is jointly executed by Bharat Broadband Network —which is also headed by Singh — and BSNL.   

Last November the telecom department pulled up BSNL and BBNL over underutilisation of BharatNet infrastructure as well as deficiencies in maintenance of the project that seeks to connect 2.5 lakh gram panchayats through high-speed broadband by March 2019. BSNL had claimed that BBNL had not taken steps to put in place such a mechanism despite the state-owned telecom service provider repeatedly insisting on the same. Absence of a mechanism to segregate the faults in the network makes it difficult to initiate action against officials, as some of the problems may turn out to be beyond their area of responsibility, BSNL had said. BSNL had also raised the issue of USOF not clearing its vendor bills despite repeated reminders, stalling  projects of not just BharatNet but also of LWE and other government of India telecom projects where USOF funds are to be given.