The new telecom bill, which was put out in public domain by the government Thursday, is expected to be in place in 6-10 months, but the government is ‘not in a hurry’, Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Friday.
“Basis consultation process, we will create a final draft. That draft will then go through committee processes of Parliament. Then it has to go (to) Parliament. I see a timeline of 6-10 months but we are not in a hurry,” Vaishnaw said when asked about a timeline for implementation of the final bill.
The Department of Telecommunications has set the deadline of October 20 for receiving public and stakeholders’ comments on the draft bill, PTI reported from New Delhi.
The Bill seeks to replace three laws: the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950.
However, to ensure a smooth transition to the new framework and avoid any possible disruption, the Bill provides for continuity of actions taken under the repealed laws.
It also provides that rules under the repealed laws would continue till such time that new rules are formulated.
Meanwhile, industry observers and experts told Indianbroadcastingworld.com that while the draft rules overall look forward-looking and have many positive points, they seek to licence hitherto unlicensed OTT communications services like WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram. This can have an impact on the country’s digital evolution and revolution, they explained.
It is also not clear whether OTT video services too would come under the proposed law of licensing. More so because broadcasting has been defined as a telecommunication service.
The draft rules do state that at present the broadcasting services requiring license include services like DTH, community radio stations, FM radio broadcasting by private agencies, IPTV products, and downlinking and uplinking of TV channels.
The Bill also seeks to give the government wide-ranging powers from waiving off dues to licensing obligations.
“The Central Government, if it determines that it is necessary in the public interest to do so, may exempt from the requirement of license, registration, authorization or assignment under sub-section (2), in the manner as may be prescribed,” the Bill states.
Further, the Bill seeks to isolate the government from legal proceedings that may arise when the rules are enacted into a law.
“No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against the Central Government, the State Government, the Government of a Union Territory, or any other authority under this Act or any person acting on their behalf as the case may be, for anything which is done in good faith, or intended to be done in pursuance of this Act or any rule, regulation or order made thereunder,” the draft rules states.
Telecommunication services have been defined as service of any description (including broadcasting services, electronic mail, voice mail, voice, video and data communication services, audiotex services, videotex services, fixed and mobile services, internet and broadband services, satellite based communication services, internet based communication services, in-flight and maritime connectivity services, interpersonal communications services, machine to machine communication services, over-the-top (OTT) communication services), which is made available to users by telecommunication, and includes any other service that the Central Government may notify to be telecommunication services.