The information communication and culture ministry hopes to set up 58 community broadband centres (CBC) in Sarawak by the end of next year, in a move to bridge the digital divide, especially in rural areas.

Deputy minister Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum said the programme to be carried out by the Malaysian Communications and MultiMedia Commission (MCMC) would cost about RM420 million.

He told reporters this after an inspection tour of the RM800,000 Julau broadband centre here today, which would be operational this month.

Salang was accompanied by Telekom Malaysia Berhad acting chairman Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi and MCMC board member Datuk Idris Abdullah.

He said the money to set up the centres came from the RM2.4 billion Universal Service Provider (USP) Fund contributed by communication providers in the country as their corporate social responsibility.

Salang, who is also Julau member of parliament, said currently, 33 of them were in the process of implementation and should be ready by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, he said, Sabah and Sarawak were enjoying the lion’s share of the USP fund where between them, more than RM850 million was spent.