The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on September 21 released the draft Indian Telecommunications 2022 Bill, under which it has proposed a provision to waive off fees and penalties of telecom and internet service providers.
The much-anticipated draft Bill after formalisation into an Act of Parliament will govern the sector.
The last date for public comment on the draft Bill is October 20.
Draft telecom bill 2022: These are the key highlights
Provision for refund
The telecom ministry has proposed a provision for refund of fees in case a telecom or internet provider surrenders his license.
According to the draft, the central government may, "waive in part or full any fee, including entry fees, license fees, registrations fees or any other fees or charges, interest, additional charges or penalty" for any licence holder or registered entity under the telecom rules.
The govt has enlarged the definition of telecommunication services to bring - over-the-top (OTT) services, satellite-based communication services, internet-based communication services, in-flight and maritime connectivity services, interpersonal communications services, and machine-to-machine communication services - under the ambit of the proposed law.
The draft Bill mandates OTT platforms such as Whatsapp to obtain a licence from the government.
Default in payment by licensees
In the event of payment default, and in extraordinary circumstances, including financial stress, consumer interest, maintaining competition in the sector, or reliability and continued supply of telecommunication services, the govt can defer the payment of such amounts, convert a part or all of the amounts payable into shares, write-off payable amounts or provide relief from payment.
In case of insolvency
The draft Bill noted that in case of insolvency, the spectrum assigned an entity shall revert to government control.
"In the event the licensee, or assignee that has become subject to insolvency proceeding..., then the spectrum, if any, assigned to such entity shall revert to the control of the central government, and the Central Government may take such further action, as may be prescribed, which may include allowing such licensee, or assignee to continue to use the spectrum, subject to placing the revenue of such entity in a separate designated account with license fee and charges applicable being paid first in priority during such period," it said.
Telecommunication Development Fund
The draft bill proposes to rename the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) as Telecommunication Development Fund (TDF). The USO fund is generated from the annual revenue of telecom services providers. The sums of money received towards the TDF will first be credited to the Consolidated Fund of India.
The fund will be utilised to boost connectivity services in underserved rural, remote, and urban areas. It will also aid research and development of new telecommunication services, skill development, and support the introduction of new telecommunication services.
The bill proposes to exempt "press messages that are intended to be published in India" of correspondents accredited to the central or state government from interception.However, the exemption will not be granted in case of any public emergency or in the interest of the public safety, sovereignty, integrity or security of India, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, or to prevent incitement to an offence, according to the draft.