Pakistan Railways Skyrockets Fiber Broadband Crossing Charges, Stifling Telecom Growth
Pakistan Railways Skyrockets Fiber Broadband Crossing Charges, Stifling Telecom Growth

Pakistan Railways has implemented a staggering increase in the Right of Way (ROW) charges for single-track crossings, now set at a whopping Rs. 3.8 million for a five-year period. This move contrasts sharply with recent reforms in the telecom sector, where Federal IT Minister Dr. Umar Saif announced a reduction in ROW charges for fiber broadband, aligning with efforts to propel the country into a digital revolution.

Read More: Pakistan Approves National Space Policy and Cyber Crime Agency for Tech Advancement

Historically, telecom operators installing fiber broadband traversing railway tracks were charged Rs. 100,000 per track crossing for a 10-year span. In 2007, with the proliferation of fiber broadband, Pakistan Railways raised charges to Rs. 2.7 million for a five-year period. However, in 2022, the PTI-led government sought to promote fiber broadband by reducing crossing charges to Rs. 600,000 for a lifetime.

Regrettably, the PDM government in May 2023 canceled this policy. On December 12, 2023, Pakistan Railways announced a drastic increase in track crossing charges to Rs. 3.8 million for five years for telecom operators. This stands in stark contrast to cable TV operators who continue to pay a nominal Rs. 100 per year. The rationale behind this discrepancy lies in the belief that telecom operators generate significantly more revenue than their cable TV counterparts.

Wahaj Siraj, Vice Chairman of the Telecom Operators Association of Pakistan, criticized the move, accusing Pakistan Railways of attempting to illegitimately extract funds from telecom operators. He argued that this exorbitant fee obstructs investments in broadband, potentially regressing the country’s technological advancements. This development is especially concerning in light of ongoing efforts by the Special Facilitation Investment Council (SIFC), led by the Prime Minister and featuring the Chief of Army Staff as a key member, to implement reforms supporting the IT and telecom sector.

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