October 3, 2022
Telecom Bill likely to be implemented in 6-10 months, says IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnav

Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnav on Friday said the new Telecom Bill, which will replace the 137-year-old Indian Telegraph Act, is expected to be implemented in 6-10 months, but the government is in no hurry. The Bill also seeks to replace the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950.

“Based on the consultation process, we will prepare the final draft. That draft will then go through the committee processes of Parliament. Then it (Parliament) has to go. I see a time period of 6-10 months, but we are not in a final bill. When asked about the timeline for implementation of the scheme, Vaishnav said.

The minister made a detailed presentation of over 36 minutes on the draft bill.

If the bill is approved, top players such as WhatsApp, Zoom and Google Duo that provide calling and messaging services may need a license to operate in the country.

While the government has sought a reference from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on the licensing framework for internet and calling messages, the bill clearly reflects the government’s intention to bring OTT apps under the licensing regime.

“OTT already comes under regulation by a telegraph interpretation. The consultation process for its regulation has already started. The focus of this bill is that we have to create a light touch regulatory environment. Wherever required There should be strict effective regulation and light touch regulation in other places.

The Bill proposes to make all internet calling and messaging apps comply with the Know Your Customer (KYC) provision when they are covered under the telecom licence.

The minister said that the first fundamental idea in the bill is about the safety of the users and every consumer has the right to know who is making the call.

“If calls can be made from different platforms then every platform needs to come under the same regulation. It is not just in India, it is a worldwide thought process. Technology has brought so many changes that The distinction between voice calls and data calls has vanished,” Vaishnav said.

He said that KYC norms will also help in preventing cyber frauds.

The Minister said that it is the fundamental duty of the users to give correct information while availing the services from the operators.

The minister said that the telecom service providers will be given the option to shift to the new rule. The new Telecom Bill proposes imprisonment of up to one year for giving false identity to avail telecom services, while the maximum fine for telecom operators is Rs. 5 crore from 50 crore per circle has been levied at present. The penalty is expected to range from zero to a maximum of Rs. 50 million.

The government has proposed a provision to waive off fees and penalties of telecom and internet service providers in the bill.

Vaishnav said that if a company goes bankrupt, the government will look at the continuity of service as the spectrum will eventually return to the government.

The Bill proposes an enabling framework for the Center to address defaults in payments by a licensee, registered entity or assignee.

In case of exceptional circumstances, the Government may decide to defer the payment due, convert a part or all of the amount into shares of the entity, write-off the amount or a part thereof or even that it may grant relief or separate from the payment of such sums.

The draft also provides for refund of fee in case the telecom or internet provider surrenders its license.

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