Draft Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022

Sep 22, 2022 | by TeamLease RegTech Legal Research Team

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Industry Specific ComplianceThe Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has released the draft Indian Telecommunications 2022 bill, which once framed into Act, will govern the sector. As per the bill, going forward, the spectrum can be assigned through auction or administrative process, depending on the requirements. The bill has provisions to waive fees, charges, and penalties of any company if required to protect the interest of consumers or ensure fair competition.

The draft bill has also enlarged the definition of telecommunication services, bringing over-the-top (OTT) communication services such as Whatsapp, Signal, and Telegram, satellite-based communication services, internet, and broadband services, in-flight and maritime connectivity services, etc, under its ambit. The bill also states in case of insolvency, the spectrum assigned to the entity shall revert to government control.

As per the draft, “the Central Government may assign spectrum for telecommunication through auction, the administrative process for governmental functions or purposes in view of public interest or necessity.”

In case of default payment by a licensee of any amount and it has been determined that there exist extraordinary circumstances, including financial stress, consumer interest, maintaining competition in the sector, or reliability and continued supply of telecommunication services, etc, the government may defer payment of such amounts, conversion of part or all the amounts payable into shares, write-off of such amounts or relief from payment of such amounts.

The government also has the right to waive in part or in full any fee, including entry fees, license fees, registration fees, or any other fees or charges, interest, additional charges or penalties, or damages payable by a licensee.

The government can also grant exceptions from the provisions of this Act or rules to a licensee.

As per the draft bill, on the occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of public safety, the Central or state governments or any officer specially authorized on this behalf can direct any message or class of messages, to or from any person or class of persons shall not be transmitted, or shall be intercepted or detained or disclosed to the officer mentioned in such order.

The government has the power to suspend any communication.

In the event of war or national security issues, the government can take over the control and management of, or suspend the operation of, or entrust any authority of the Government to manage any or all of any telecommunication services.

The bill also provides that a licensee undergoing insolvency proceedings can continue to operate if it continues to provide the telecommunication service, does not default on the payment of any dues under the license, and complies with any additional or modified terms and conditions of the license.

But if such licensees cannot comply with these requirements, then the assigned spectrum will revert to the control of the government.

The government may permit the sharing, trading, leasing, and surrender of spectrum assigned subject to the terms and conditions, including applicable fees or charges, as may be prescribed.

In case of breach of license conditions, the DoT can revoke such license, registration, authorization, or assignment and impose a penalty. The penalty regime has been changed, with varying amounts of penalties depending on the severity of the offense.

Any suspension, curtailment, revocation, or variation may be reversed if the substantial violation is remedied to the satisfaction of the Central Government.

An alternate dispute resolution may be established by the government.

The mandate of USOF has been widened to include provisioning telecom services to urban areas, R&D, skill development, support of pilot projects, etc.

The bill has been put up for public consultation and stakeholders can send their comments by October 20 via a notification dated September 21, 2022.





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