New Regulations for the Convergence Sector

In December 1999, when a separate ministry for Information Technology was formed by the Central Government, it was thought that this would help the IT Sector in general and the E-Commerce sector in particular to be free from bureaucratic hassles and support. Inspite of the various criticisms on the ITA-2000, it must be acknowledged that but for the enthusiasm of the Minister of Information Technology, the Act would not have seen the light of the day by this time. Many of the problems that has been pointed out in the drafting of the Bill was attributable to the possible interference of other ministries in the drafting of the IT Bill and related provisions.

Unfortunately, growth, reach and prosperity of IT sector has made it a subject matter of interest to every ministry starting with Telecom, Home, Law, Finance, and Broadcasting. This "Convergence" or the "Omnipotent and Omniscient" nature of IT can itself be a hazard to the development of IT industry in a country like India where the "Regulation" is a favourite pastime of the "Ruling Politicians".

But for the path breaking vision of exceptional politicians like Chandrababu Naidu, India would never have made as much progress in IT as it has done so far.

Presently there appears to be a possibility of "Traditional Power Centric Regulators" hijacking the industry. If this is not nipped in the bud, the dream of "India being an IT Super Power" may remain a dream only. 

Let's look at the direction of evolution of "Regulatory Mechanisms for the Indian Cyber Society" with reference to post ITA-2000 implementation.

The ITA-2000 has regulations that define what is right or wrong as to the one aspect of the content delivery namely the "Obscenity". The range of powers that the Act provides for the "Controller" has already raised alarms in the industry. Lack of checks and balances for the operations of the Adjudicating Officer and the CRAT has also been brought to the public notice. The lost opportunity in using the CRAC as a vehicle of progress has also been highlighted in earlier comments at

Even before the ink has dried on the notification of the ITA-2000 Rules, there appears on the horizon a new regulation of momentous importance to the Netizen community of India. This is coming in the form of the " Regulation of the Convergence sector".

SEBI is contemplating regulation of "Content Relating to Investments" SEBI may also step into the area of "Regulating Content on Corporate Web sites". SEBI is already regulating the "Financing of DotCom Companies" through an exclusive attention. RBI is contemplating regulation of "E-Commerce initiatives of of Non Banking Finance Companies and Banks". These regulations may fall in the purview of the Finance ministry.

Over and above this Telecom Ministry is already into legislation on censorship of Internet in India. It also controls the majority of Internet access service. Until the Cable Internet takes off, telephone remains the critical last mile connectivity device for all Netizens. Today, telephone costs are around 75 % of connectivity costs in paid services and are the only costs of connectivity in respect of "Free Internet Access Services". Poor quality of connectivity is  a factor which makes this cost higher than what it seems to be. Netizens who are concerned about their rights are therefore extremely unhappy with the services of the Telecom sector and are living in the hope that after the privatization of the DOT, there could be an improvement in its services and pricing policies.

Now the Netizens have to also watch out for the new "Regulator for the Convergence Sector" proposed to be set up. This regulation would cover Internet, Broadcasting, and Telecom sectors. A huge part of the Cyber society would be affected by any legislation in this regard.

When the IT Bill was drafted and available to the Community to comment very few took cognizance of the long term implications of the regulations. was the sole voice in the wilderness around that time and only after the legislation has been passed some attention is being given to it by others. We hope the same lethargy would not be shown to the proposed "Convergent Media Regulation".

The Netizen's Forum for Credible Cyber Regulations therefore urges the Cyber Community of India to remain vigilant and express its concerns on such regulations through whatever means they think it right. The doors of is always open for such community activities.

October 21, 2000

Related Article in Hindustan Times