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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication, on Thursday, observed that if the Parliamentarians do not have access to mobile phone service inside the Parliament and the Parliament Lodges, then what facility is being provided to the public and directed the chief executive officers (CEOs) of cellular companies for briefings in the next meeting.

The committee, which met with Kauda Babar in the chair also sought a briefing on the initial agreement with Etisalat and cyber security policy. The standing committee also decided to take in-camera briefing on strategic issues from the Ministry of IT, Special Communication Organization (SCO), and the Pakistan Telecommuni-cation Authority (PTA).

Some members of the committee, including the chairman of the committee, expressed surprise that the same cellular companies are awarded contracts for fiber optics and towers and the money they give is returned to them for the work in terms of contracts.

The chairman of the standing committee said that only four companies should not get the benefit of 220 million people, monopolies should be abolished, and there should be open bids. He said that signals were not coming here even in the parliament and even where they live in the Parliament Lodges. The chairman PTA said that there are jammers here. The Committee chairman said that if there are jammers here, the service in the lodges should be good.

SCO is our Pakistani company. It is working in AJK and GB outside Pakistan. Senator Afnanullah Khan said that the public sector should not be included in it. If the public sector is brought into it, these companies will leave. The federal secretary IT told the committee that they are revising the digital policy of 2018.

For the first time, IT exports have reached $2 billion and next year target is $3.5 billion. The infrastructure for the 5G auction will be completed first and then they will be able to go for its auction in 2023. The committee was informed that the base price of spectrum will be $830 million and the process will be started in a few days.

The federal secretary IT told the committee that the final draft of Cloud First policy has been prepared. He informed the committee that the ministry and its subsidiaries have 39 PSDP projects out of which 22 are ongoing, and 17 are new projects for which Rs9.3 billion has been allocated for the current financial year.

98 percent of the previous financial year PSDP funds were utilised. The chairman Standing Committee said that when he sees the marketing funds of cellular companies and CSR he feels sorry. People are important to him, companies spent billion of rupees. I am sitting in Parliament without services, where I live in Parliament Lodges, there is no service, he added.

Officials of cellular companies briefed the committee on CSR, however, the committee directed that the CEOs of the companies should come for the next briefing. Briefing on the CRS activities of mobile companies, the chairman PTA said that so far, telecom companies have sent two billion free of cost awareness messages.

Member Committee Dr Shehzad Waseem said that it is the duty of the cellular companies to provide good services to the people of Pakistan. The entire system has been developed in terms of revenue and profit. In Balochistan, where the cost is high, the revenue is low. Services should be provided there. The government service provider must be set up. SCO is a Pakistani company but it cannot work in Pakistan.

Harris Chaudhry, CEO of Universal Service Fund, told the committee that the USF has received Rs115 billion in the last 15 years. By June 30, 2021, they have signed contracts for fiber optics and infrastructure in remote areas worth Rs86 billion. Senator Rubina Khalid said that in three years, we have not been able to solve the problems of the PTCL pensioners. To date, no progress has been made on this.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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