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Universal Service

Universal Service Obligation Fund

The Electronic Communication Act 2013 establishes the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), whose purpose is to ensure that Information Communication Technology (including broadcasting) are made available at quality service, to all citizens of Eswatini, including the disabled, regardless of geographical location, regardless of any specific national condition and must be at an affordable price.

Universal Access refers to the provision of access on a shared basis, at a community level and is a foundation for the Universal Service. Universal Service is the provision of the Information Communication Technology (including broadcasting) Services at an individual or household level. There is a need to use both approaches in order to meet the obligations of the USOF hence they are generally referred to as the Universal Access and Service (UAS). The USOF focuses on Universal Access and Service projects that benefit communities.

There are three fundamental areas of achieving Universal Access and Service:

  1. Availability: The services listed above should be made available to all citizens of Eswatini at all times regardless of geographic location, either through shared, community, public, personal or household connectivity.
  2. Accessibility: The services should be accessible to all citizens regardless of gender, location, disability in a non-discriminatory manner with regards to price and quality of service.
  3. Affordability: The services shall be consumed by all citizens at a price which is not going to limit usage. It must be affordable.

USOF will in addition to funding projects, work with all stakeholders to ensure that policies in the electronic communications, broadcasting, and postal sectors promote universal service where possible, so that the USOF can focus in areas where it is not attractive to business due to unfriendly environment or very low-income projections.

Funding of Universal Service

(1) The Commission shall estimate the cost of achieving the funding of the universal service, update the cost estimates annually and report the findings of the Commission to the Minister.

(2) The Commission shall consider a request made by a designated licensee to receive funding for the net costs of meeting the obligation for which the licensee is designated.

(3) In dealing with a case under subsection (1), the Commission shall determine whether the provision of the service by the designated licensee making the request is imposing an unfair burden on such licensee, and shall accordingly amend or retain the obligations of the licensee.

(4) The Commission may make it a condition of a grant of a licence that every provider of public electronic communications services shall contribute to a universal access fund.

(5) The proceeds of the universal access fund referred to in subsection (4) shall be used for the development and expansion of electronic communications networks and services in areas where there are no services and to provide access to the widest number of users including those with disabilities.