Industry stakeholders hail new Telecommunications Bill 2023

Industry stakeholders on Monday welcomed the new Telecommunications Bill, 2023, saying its provisions will bring uniformity across states in terms of Right of Way (RoW) rules and regulations, along with rates.

They will also address long-standing issues for telecom infrastructure providers, including capping of charges, deemed approval, and deployment of telecom infrastructure on private property, said the industry leaders.

“Additionally, the bill safeguards digital infrastructure, stating that no public entity can take coercive actions against the telecommunication network without permission from a Central Government authorised officer, except in cases of natural disasters or public emergencies,” Digital Infrastructure Providers Association (DIPA) Director General T.R. Dua said.

The Bill, introduced by Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, includes focus on creating robust telecom networks through a well-defined Chapter on RoW, including granting of RoW in a non-discriminatory manner and clarifying that this network shall not be considered for the purposes of tax, levy, cess, fees or duties on that property.

“The Bill prevents coercive actions like sealing/shutdowns without due permission from the Central Government. Such positive measures will help connect Indians to a robust digital network across the length and breadth of the country,” COAI Director General, Lt. Gen. Dr. S.P. Kochhar (retd) said.

“We also appreciate the clarifications and specification of penalties. The Bill brings in the proportionality and nexus with the nature of the offence and will lead to a considered and rational approach to penalties. It is a progressive step designed to increase industry confidence and increase ease of doing business,” he added.

In the Bill, ‘license’ has been replaced by ‘authorisation’, wherein it has been specified that authorisation would be required to provide telecommunication services. This would simplify the overall regulatory landscape for telecom services.

Further, the Bill incorporates strict provisions in case of unlawful interception of messages or unauthorised access to the same, to help ensure national security, said experts.

According to Harsh Walia, Partner at Khaitan & Co, the Telecommunications Bill 2023 provides extensive powers to the Central government, however there are various overlaps with other sectors and powers exercised by the respective regulators.

“Given that excessive powers are given to the Central Government in relation to these matters which are already regulated under existing laws, it will be important to see that there is no overlap between Department of Telecommunications with other regulators such as Competition Commission of India, TRAI, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, etc,” Walia said.

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