Telecom Bill 2023 Proposes Government Oversight of Communication Networks During Public Emergencies

The bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday, allows the government temporary control over telecom services, citing national security concerns.

   
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For the Telecommunication Industry, a lot is about to change with the Telecommunication Bill, 2023. The proposed bill is looking to replace the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950, the Indian Telegraph Act 1885, and the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act 1933.

The bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday, allows the government temporary control over telecom services, citing national security concerns. This unprecedented authority could also extend to the suspension of services in the interest of national security, marking a paradigm shift in the government’s influence over the telecommunications landscape.

KEY PROVISIONS OF THE PROPOSED LAW

The proposed law grants the government the power to temporarily take possession of any telecommunication network in the interest of public safety or during a public emergency. The bill addresses the government’s concern about outdated laws, some dating back to 138 years, in the face of rapidly advancing communication technologies.

MEDIA MESSAGES SHIELDED, OTT PLAYERS EXEMPTED

Under the bill, messages from accredited media persons are safeguarded from interception, unless prohibited under the national security clause. Notably, over-the-top (OTT) players or apps, such as WhatsApp and Telegram, remain excluded from telecom regulations, underscoring the government’s commitment to protecting the sovereignty and integrity of India.

ADMINISTRATIVE ALLOCATION OF SPECTRUM

The bill introduces provisions for the administrative allocation of spectrum, bypassing traditional auctions, with the aim of expediting the launch of services. This strategic move is expected to benefit companies such as Bharti’s OneWeb, Reliance’s Jio in Satellite Communications, and Elon Musk’s Starlink.

PENALTIES FOR UNLAWFUL INTERCEPTION

In a bid to ensure compliance, the bill outlines penalties for the unlawful interception of messages, including a jail term of up to three years, a fine of up to Rs 2 crore, or both. Additionally, the draft legislation establishes a Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal to address potential conflicts within the telecom sector.

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