In what can be seen as a landmark decision, the public works department (PWD) has issued an order making approval and payment of road restoration charges and other charges mandatory for allowing telecom service providers to dig up roads for laying optical fibre cables. These firms, which have been making one-time payment to Kerala State IT Mission for digging up PWD roads, will have to give adequate amount as road restoration charges to the road owner.

The order has been issued as part of measures to avoid frequent damages caused to PWD roads and to maintain roads using the funds.

Until now, telecom companies had to get nod from State IT mission for digging up roads. The telecom service providers had to pay a one-time payment of Rs 75,000/km to IT mission for giving right of way for them to lay cables. While half the amount would go to IT Mission, which uses it for IT-related infrastructure development and as funds for its corporate social responsibilities the remaining amount would go to the chief minister's relief fund.

 

The telecom companies have to pay just Rs 50/km as bank guarantee which can be used by PWD only if the telecom company breaches the agreement with IT mission. Now onwards, the telecom companies should pay the rates fixed by PWD time to time , the GO issued on January 5 said.

"The PWD is not getting any amount for restoring the roads dug up by the telecom companies. Due to digging up of roads by various agencies, PWD incurs a loss of around Rs 3,000 crore every year. That's why we issued such an order," PWD minister G Sudhakaran said. Besides road restoration charges, right of way charges should also be given to PWD.

The PWD would be working out the rates, including road restoration charges soon and issue a separate order for it. The PWD, after hearing all the stakeholders like KWA, KSEB, BSNL and private telecom companies, has issued the order which stipulates that the PWD would inform all the agencies about relaying or repair works six months in advance if the work is a major one. In case of minor works, it would be informed to the agencies three months before starting the work. The agencies like KWA, KSEB and telecom service providers should do the laying of cables and utilities before PWD starts its work.

As of now, only a few local bodies, including Kochi corporation, charge restoration charges from telecom companies. Kochi corporation charges Rs 50,000/km as road restoration charges. They also charge track rent of Rs 50,000 which is to be paid every year. As part of enhancing their network, telecom service providers are laying optical fiber cables along thousands of kilometres.

There are allegations that these companies are doing this without securing permission from the agencies concerned. Kochi corporation has lodged a few cases against such telecom firms at different police stations in the city. – TOI


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