The Ministry of Communications released the draft Telecommunication Bill 2022 to regulate the telecom sector of the country. The draft Bill was released to get public comments on the same. This article talks about the significance and changes this Bill is coming up with.
Overview of the Bill
Presently the telecommunication sector of the country is governed by 3 Acts, and they are:
- Indian Telegraph Act of 1885
- Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933
- The Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Protection) Act of 1950.
This Bill consolidates all the above-mentioned Acts and changes the provisions that do not fit the present state of the Indian telecommunication market.
Major Issues With Regard to Existing Legal Setup of the Telecommunication Sector
The telecom service providers in India have been asking for the requirement of a license by the OTT (Over-the-Top) platforms for providing services to the users, which they currently do not require.
Telecommunication service providers like Airtel, Reliance Jio etc. have been complaining about the unfairness they have to deal with when the OTT platforms, including various messaging, video calling and calling facilities providing platforms like Whatsapp, Telegram, Google Meet, etc., provide these services, without having to fulfil the documentary necessities and to bear license costs that telecommunication service providers have to otherwise undergo.
Secondly, the OTT platforms use the internet services provided by the telecommunication service providers to offer their specific services without paying any share to the telecom service providers, and thus the telecom service providers have to bear higher infrastructure costs.
Key Features of the Draft Bill
These are some of the important highlights of the Bill:
1. Inclusion of OTT Platforms Within the Definition of Telecommunication Service Providers
The inclusion of OTT platforms within the definition of the telecommunication service provider will require the OTT platforms to get a license issued by the government to operate in India.
2. Limiting the Powers of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
This Bill also restricts the ambit of powers of TRAI with regard to issuing licenses. It also reduces the position of TRAI from a regulatory body to a mere recommendatory body.
3. Replacement of Universal Service Obligation Fund With a New Fund
The draft bill proposes replacing the Universal Service Obligation Fund with a new fund called the Telecommunication Development Fund, which will support various projects like the Bharat Net Project to boost internet connectivity in the country’s remotest areas.
4. Increased Control of the Government Over the Sector
If the internet service provider fails to make the payments or becomes insolvent, then the government can defer, write off, or remit the provider and can exercise its discretion to allow the Telecom Service Provider to continue using the spectrum.
With the growing market of telecom users in the country and increasing competition in the technology sector, it becomes highly important that the government comes up with new legislation which is fair and provides a level playing field to all the operators and service providers. Though with the emergence of new technologies, also come new challenges along with the old unresolved ones, which include the availability of high-speed internet facilities to the entire country for which vast infrastructure for widening the reach of the spectrum sufficiency is also required.