OREANDA-NEWS The Government has found additional funds to continue financing the Internet connection program for sparsely populated areas in 2024 as part of the project to eliminate Digital inequality (MCI). This was announced by the Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media Maksut Shadaev.

"The government, as part of the preparation of amendments to the second reading (of the draft budget - IF), on the proposal of deputies, among other things, has found an opportunity to finance the continuation of the program of connecting small settlements and the creation of LTE infrastructure there for access (to the Internet - IF)," Shadayev told reporters on Wednesday.

According to the minister, financing is expected "within the parameters that operators collect, minus the overall optimization." Thus, the government, according to him, "ensured the restoration of the costs of connecting small settlements."

Earlier it was reported that the State Duma Committee on IT insists on the return to the draft budget for 2024 of 9.871 billion rubles of sequestered funds under the financial support program for the provision of universal communication services. The committee's conclusion on the draft federal budget for 2024-2026 (No. 448554-8) was published in the electronic database of the Parliament on October 11.

The Committee recalled that last year, when approving the budget of the Russian Federation, allocations for financial support of this program were expected at the level of 15 billion rubles in 2023. However, in the budget proposed by the Ministry of Finance for 2024, the volume has been reduced almost three times, to 5.645 billion rubles. "At the same time, the funds of the universal service reserve in full in the amount of 15 billion 517 thousand rubles are needed for the financial provision of universal communication services in 2024," the committee's conclusion says.

The minimum set of communication services, which, according to the law "On Communications", should be available to the maximum possible number of citizens, includes: telephone services provided using means of collective access – payphones, multifunctional devices; data transmission services and Internet access using access points; mobile communication services provided with using access points.

The universal service reserve is formed at the expense of deductions by all telecom operators of the country for 1.2% of revenue. With these funds, Rostelecom PJSC is implementing a project to eliminate digital inequality, which provides for the organization of Internet access in settlements where 100-500 people live, as well as the installation of LTE base stations in such settlements. According to the law "On Communications", funds from this reserve can be directed only for the above purposes, but the Ministry of Finance has been trying for several years to redistribute part of the funds from this fund for other purposes.