The government is working to introduce the new telecom bill in the monsoon session of Parliament. The bill will be presented to the Parliament after inter-ministerial and public consultation, The Economic Times (ET) reported, quoting a senior official aware of the development.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) has resolved issues regarding the possible dilution of the powers of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). They have also mapped out a way to sort out issues around the potential domain overlap with the broadcasting ministry, said the report.
In addition to this, the draft also aims to propose some degree of regulation for over-the-top (OTT) communication apps such as WhatsApp and Signal to safeguard national security and ensure consumer safety, the report added.
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"We have proposed a light-touch regulatory approach for communication apps, the details of which will be shared in the bill. We are on track to table the bill in the monsoon session," the official told the newspaper, requesting anonymity. The monsoon session is normally held in the July-August period.
Aims to replace three laws
If passed, the new telecom bill will replace three laws, including the Indian Telegraph Act, 1855, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950.
The revised draft is expected to be released soon. However, it is unclear if DoT will open it up for another round of public consultations. "It will be decided later. The revised draft has anyway been prepared after listening to all the stakeholders, and whatever concerns have been raised are already addressed," said the official.
Adding further, the official stated that while OTT communications apps would be regulated, it would not be on the lines of telecom operators, wherein they have to pay a licence fee and other charges. "OTT apps don't buy spectrum from us. The regulation of OTT is to do with regards to national security and consumer safety," he clarified.
This is aimed at removing any ambiguity around the category of apps that the DoT plans to regulate. The original draft did not contain a specific definition of apps, which had become a cause for concern for many. Many believed that streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hotstar, as well as food delivery apps like Swiggy and Zomato, could be regulated by the telecom department, the report added.