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Highlights of Iran’s  Second USO Conference
Highlights of Iran’s  Second USO Conference

Highlights of Iran’s Second USO Conference

Plans are underway to curb disinformation and the dissemination of falsified news
In the next fiscal year that starts in March 2017 $92 million will be spent on developing rural telecommunication services

Highlights of Iran’s Second USO Conference

A roadmap for the development of electronic services in rural and under-developed areas was unveiled at The Second National Conference of Universal Service Obligations on December 5.  
Universal Service Obligations (USO) is the obligation placed on universal service providers to ensure that a baseline level of services is provided to every resident of a country. 
The Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Mahmoud Vaezi, said that nearly 3.5 trillion rials ($92 million) has been earmarked for developing telecommunication services in Iran’s rural areas in the next fiscal year (starts in March 2017), CITNA reported. 
The Rouhani Administration plans to expand Internet coverage and telecom services to remote regions to cover, among other things, electronic health, education, tourism and agriculture services, Vaezi said at the second USO Conference held at Iran Telecommunication Research Center, Tehran. 
“With the implementation of such plans, businesses will improve and benefit in the rural areas,” Telecom Minister Vaezi said following the conference. 
In implementing such programs the relevant ministries and organizations would work together for which “agreements in principle have been reached,” Vaezi said.
Highlighting the role and significance of the Internet in creating jobs and curbing the pattern of rural-to-urban immigration, he said better services in rural regions could “stop the villagers from flocking to over-populated urban areas.” This can be done by putting in place  “policies and incentives and promoting cultural development on the proper use of new services.” 
The government has plans to augment the rural economy by paying more attention to goods produced in the villages and eliminating avaricious middlemen. “Direct sales (from producer to consumer) of such products can boost rural economies,” Vaezi said.  
He noted that over 25,000 villages now have access to the Internet. The plan is to increase Internet coverage to all communities with more than 15 households.  Villages with more than twenty families have telephone lines.  
USO looks to promote the availability of quality services at just, reasonable, and affordable rates and to increase access to advanced telecommunications services throughout the nation and to increase the availability of such services to all consumers, including those in low-income, underdeveloped or rural areas.

 Plans for popular news outlets  
On the sidelines of the conference, Vaezi noted that following approval from the High Council of Cyberspace—headed by President Hassan Rouhani—plans are underway to organize and update issues related to social media websites and news channels.  
The new plans, which have been approved by the members of the council, call for “regulating online news/information activities of independent social media activists.” 
People who run their own channels to disseminate news and information will be required to obtain official permits from one predefined organization, Vaezi said. 
“This is a critical issue as it relates to the trust of the public,” he said while adding that the goal is to “stop the spread of false news.”  
The Ministry of Culture has been tasked with creating a committee which will prepare guidelines for this matter. It has been given a one-month deadline to complete the task.  
During the preliminary talks, it was decided that news and public notification and outreach channels that have more than 5,000 followers will have to apply for permits. 
Vaezi, however, noted that this is just a suggestion and has not yet been ratified. Details on the number of members and how to identify the managers of such pages on social media websites and Telegram channels will be clarified in the guidelines.    
He added that content management on social media “will not be limited to Telegram”— the most popular social media application in Iran. The guidelines will propose solutions that will apply to content published on all social media websites with “significant number of followers.”

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