DOT News: DoT floats consultation paper on need for new legal framework for sector

The Department of Telecommunications has sought views on the need for overhauling laws governing the telecom sector, stressing on the need for a new legal framework which was clear, precise, and in tune with the changing times and technologies. It called for changes to regulations on spectrum management, M&A, provisions related to insolvency, and those related to national security, among other things.

“India needs law which is clear, and attuned to realities of the sector for a precise new potential of telecommunication,” the DoT said in a consultation paper on the ‘Need for a new legal framework telecommunication in India.’ The paper was released on the DoT website on Saturday.

“It is important to have a modern and future-ready legal framework which addresses the realities of telecommunication in 21st century India,” the paper read, adding that the technology and nature of telecommunication have a massive change since the Indian Telegraph Act, came into force on October 1, 1885.

The DoT called for a new legal framework enabling the utilization of spectrum in a liberalized and technologically neutral manner, allowing assignees to deploy new technologies and maintain policy continuity to allow the existing spectrum at present to continue for a specified time period. The new law needs to also ensure flexibility to the central government for spectrum usage in public interest.

“The law needs to contain provisions for re-farming and harmonization of frequency range,” DoT said, adding that the new law needs to provide for sharing, trading,

surrender of spectrum assigned.

To simplify the framework for mergers, demergers and acquisitions, or other forms of restructuring, a new law needs to allow for any licensee or registered entity to comply with the scheme for restructuring as provided under the Companies Act, 2013 and simply inform the DoT.

“This process needs to be simplified,” the paper said.

In case of insolvency related issues in the telecom sector, the focus should be on continuity of service. Insolvency proceedings should not lead to suspension of license as long as the services continue to be provided, and there is no default in payment of dues against the telecom license or use of spectrum.

“This crucial balance, continuity of service and safeguarding between public interests needs to be addressed under a new framework,” the DoT said.

A new law needs to have appropriate provisions for addressing situations of public emergency, public safety and for taking measures in the interests of national security, the department said.

Penalties should be proportionate to offences. “With this in view, a new law needs to consolidate and update the various provisions on penalties and offences.”

The DoT has also asked for the new law to provide a robust regulatory framework to obtain right of way, in a “uniform, non-discriminatory manner” and to create provisions to create an effective dispute resolution framework.

The new law will also consider ways to overhaul the current universal service obligation fund, with a wider concept of a “Telecommunication Development Fund,” addressing the larger public purpose of ensuring delivery of universal telecom service, especially to underserved rural and urban areas, research and development of new technologies, and promote employment and training activities.


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