October 3, 2022
DoT introduces draft Telecom Bill aimed at regulating Internet-based services

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has introduced a new draft bill, through which the government seeks to replace the existing legal framework governing telecommunications in India.

The government wants to consolidate the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 and the Telegraph Telegraph (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950, through a new bill.

The Center is of the view that India needs a legal framework in line with the realities of the 21st century, said an explanatory note to the proposed bill named the Indian Telecom Bill, 2022.

“The current regulatory framework for the telecommunications sector is based on the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885. The nature of telecommunications, its uses and technologies have changed extensively since the era of “telegraph”. The world stopped using “telegraph”. 2013,” the explanatory note said.

It said that the world is now in the era of new technologies like 4G and 5G, Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, M2M Communications and mobile edge computing.

With 117 crore subscribers, India is the second largest telecom ecosystem in the world.

The note said that the telecom sector employs over 4 million people and contributes about 8 per cent to the country’s GDP.

The Ministry of Communications initiated a public consultation process to develop a modern and future-ready legal framework. In July 2022, a consultation paper on ‘the need for a new legal framework governing telecommunications in India’ was published and comments were invited.

The consultation paper explains the existing legal framework and related issues. The consultation paper highlighted the development of telecommunications regulation in other countries.

Again, comments have been received from various stakeholders and industry associations. The Ministry has further carefully examined the comments and the following major themes have emerged:

Identification and acceptance of the need for a new future-ready legal framework;

the need to update the nomenclature and definitions of relevant terms in the telecommunications legal framework;

A strong legal framework can play a role in ensuring the continued rollout of new telecommunication technologies;

the need for legal certainty about spectrum management, including issues relating to use, allocation and assignment, based on the underlying principle that spectrum is a natural resource that needs to be assigned in a way that serves the common good;

Alignment of telecommunication standards with international standards and best practices; * Importance of cyber security, national security and public security concerns while ensuring constitutional and procedural safeguards;

Requires a specific insolvency framework that allows continuance of the provision of telecommunications services, as long as the licensee pays all dues; And

The need for rationalization of the penal structure, provision of specific punishment that is clearly linked to the nature of the violation and the gravity of the offence.

The government said that while drafting, relevant laws in Australia, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Japan and the United States have also been examined in detail.

The draft Bill states that considering spectrum as a valuable and inexhaustible natural resource, an element of public good, it is important to ensure efficient management and use of spectrum.

The new bill will consolidate and amend laws governing the provision, development, expansion and operation of telecom services, telecom networks and telecom infrastructure, and spectrum assignment.

Under the new bill, among several new internet-based services, OTT platforms will be treated as “telecom services”.

In addition to OTT, broadcast services, electronic mail, voice mail, voice, video and data communication services, audio text services, videotex services, fixed and mobile services, Internet and broadband services, satellite-based communication services, Internet-based communication services. Flight and maritime connectivity services, interpersonal communication services, machine-to-machine communication services shall now be treated as “telecommunication services”.

The draft bill also states that the central government will have special privileges to provide telecom services, establish, operate, maintain and expand telecom networks and telecom infrastructure, and use, allocate and allocate spectrum.

The last date for sending comments, if any, on the draft Bill is October 20, 2022 and can be emailed to Naveen Kumar, Joint Secretary – Telecom.


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