Russia’s Ministry of Telecom & Mass Communications (MinSvyaz) has issued a summary on its website of the achievements of the federal-assisted programme to eliminate the digital divide in settlements with 250 to 500 inhabitants by expanding universal internet access nationwide. The ministry disclosed that, under the programme, by the end of 2016 more than 34,000km of fibre-optics was laid to enable high speed internet access in 3,909 villages, each with 250-500 inhabitants, spread across 70 regions (oblasts) of the Russian Federation. These settlements represent around 400,000 households.
The overarching universal service programme aims to eventually build around 215,000km of fibre-optic links, covering 13,800 remote rural settlements, whilst Rostelecom was assigned as the sole federal operator of universal services in March 2014, and in May that year the telco signed a ten-year contract with the Federal Communication Agency (RosSvyaz) on the conditions of national universal services provision, under which Rostelecom is also responsible for 149,000 ‘universal’ payphones and 21,000 points of collective (community) internet access, MinSvyaz’s statement adds. As another facet of the universal access programme, broadband internet is available on a ‘social tariff’ approved in April 2015, currently set at RUB45 (USD0.79) per month for a 10Mbps connection with unlimited data usage volume.