According to various media reports, a close source to the Department of Telecom (DoT) has said the government would duly address TRAI’s concerns regarding a potential dilution of power with the introduction of the Indian Telecommunication Act 2022. The source also said that the government over time might work towards strengthening the regulatory body separately, which was earlier said to be the primary intention of the government in adding certain clauses that TRAI has objections to.
As for the OTT (Over-The-Top) communication apps, the government’s intention with the draft telecom bill has been to focus on regulation related to user protection. The draft bill is not intended to interfere with the licencing part. The Department of Telecommunication plan is to put the hammer on spammers and culprits of cyber fraud making the telecom bill its weapon.
It was reported in the media that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, TRAI, had reservations about some clauses in the draft telecommunication bill and the agency believed those points will dilute its power. Apart from this, experts had pointed out other concerns that included the fact the Bill undermines the regulator by proposing to “take away the TRAI’s statutory independence, and seeks to make it subservient to the government”. The DoT source, however, says that the two bodies since then have had discussions and all the outstanding issues have been resolved. The source also told the media personnel that at the moment there are no differences between the two bodies.
“The Department of Telecom (DoT) has had discussions with the TRAI and all the concerns were addressed. Everyone agreed that the intent was good… There are no differences between the DoT and the TRAI. All issues have been resolved,” the source added while speaking to the media.
After the discussions were held between both parties, the telecom ministry is now of the view that the specific objectionable provisions will be removed from the bill. These provisions, intended to further strengthen TRAI, are in line with the lines of the US Federal Communications Commission or the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom. The telecom ministry will take up these provisions in another three to four years through a separate exercise after having a proper discussion with all parties involved.
The telecom ministry last month circulated the draft of the Indian Telecommunication Act, 2022 to stakeholders for comments. That circulated draft telecom bill had proposed many clauses and one of those provisions was for waiving fees and penalties of telecom and internet service providers. The telecom department, in the draft telecom bill, also mooted a provision for the refund of fees. This clause was for matters where licences will be surrendered by a telecom or internet provider.
Moreover, telecom service providers are also constantly pushing for the need of bringing OTT apps such as WhatsApp or Signal under regulation. The argument in favour of this is that these apps offer services similar to the telecom service providers such as calling and messaging. It is the need of the time that these should be subject to the same licence conditions as telecom service providers. Bringing such OTT apps under the regulation will finally ensure a level playing field for all tech companies working in similar businesses.
Read more: What is OTT (Over-the-Top)? Everything You Need to Know
Read more: Draft telecom Bill: TRAI Opposed to Regulation of OTT Platforms
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