The Government of India has released a press note as follows:
Inviting comments on the Consultation Paper on ‘Need for a new legal framework governing Telecommunication in India’
Legal framework for telecommunication in India is governed by Laws which were enacted long before India’s independence. Technology has evolved significantly in the recent decades.
Stakeholders have been demanding evolution of legal framework to keep it in tune with changing technology. Therefore, Ministry of Communications has prepared a consultation paper on need for a new legal framework in telecom sector.
The consultation paper may be accessed at https://dot.gov.in/whatsnew/consultation-paper-need-new-legal-framework-governing-telecommunication-india.
Comments may be sent on the email ID : naveen.kumar71@gov.
Some of my immediate observations on the consultation paper are captured below for the comments of the readers.
- The objectives of the proposed new legal framework governing telecommunication in India to bring better administrative clarity is welcome.
- Today, telecommunication has merged with the Digital world and the Telecommunication network has become a network for carrying digital data. It is therefore similar to a Wide Area Network of electronic data. It has hardware which includes the “Tower Network” and “Content” which is “Data” that flows between users. The carrier is the “Spectrum” which is a unique “Virtual” asset. The regulations should cover all these segments of business.
- Out of the above three segments, regulation of Towers in the form of licensing, prevention of harm through the radiation, the right of way etc are one kind of regulations that need to be put in place.
- Second type of regulation is related to the “Spectrum” management which is a right to use a certain frequency band. The “Electro Magnetic Radiation” emanating from the towers is a similar phenomenon of something travelling through air and having a consequence but difficult to conceptually describe in a law. “Spectrum Management and “Radiation Management” are special areas of regulation unique to this industry.
- Third type of regulation is related to the content. Since the content generated, transmitted and stored by the telecom industry is mostly “Digital” the regulation can be merged with the regulation of digital content. In order to regulate the small part of analog communication, the digital law itself may be used by a “Deeming effect” by declaring that Analogue communication for the purpose of regulation in this industry is deemed to be “digital” in form and regulations meant for digital content may be extended to analog content as well.
- Fourth type of regulation is related to the end user equipment for receiving and transmitting telecom signals which may include the “Set Top Boxes”, the Routers” etc. These are also similar to the digital data transmission and processing devices such as “Computers” and “Mobiles” and hence care should be exercised not to create overlapping regulations.
- Since the MeitY has made some announcements that they may consider a “Unified” law for Telecommunications and Information Technology, the DOT may consider to restrict the “Telecom Law” to the special requirements of the Telecom industry which relate to “Spectrum Management” and place the issues related to tower management, content management, Set top management etc to the “Unified Digital Law” that may be drafted for integration of the Data Protection law and Information Technology Act.
- The entire telecom network may be declared as “Protected System” under the current Section 70 of the ITA 2000 and declared as “Critical IT Infrastructure” . Special powers may be notified to regulate the Critical IT Infrastructure which may include the “Right of Way”.
- Framework for mergers, acquisitions and Insolvency provisions etc are also similar to the issues that arise in IT (eg insolvency of Net4India and merger of CIBIL with TransUnion) and can be handled by the Unified law.
- The Universal Service Obligation can also be merged with the IT regulations under the Unified law.
- Penalties, as well as Public Safety and National Security also can be merged with IT regulations under the Unified law.
- Hence if the Telecom regulations address “Spectrum” issue, most of the legal requirements would be adequately addressed. Since “Spectrum” also has relations to the “WiFi” which is a concern of the IT industry, it may not be impossible to merge the spectrum regulation also with the Unified law though it requires some innovative thinking.