iamai: Keep content, broadcasting out of ‘telecom services’, IAMAI tells government


Internet and social media intermediaries such as Meta, Google, and Twitter have told the government that definition of ‘telecommunications’ in the draft Telecom Bill, 2022 is “overly broad” and must exclude “broadcasting services as well as all content including digital content” from its purview.

These companies said this in their feedback on the draft bill submitted under the umbrella of Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). ET has seen a copy of the submission.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT), which released the draft telecom bill in September, has extended the last date for receipt of comments and feedback to November 20.

In its submission, IAMAI said as per the draft bill in its current form, the term ‘telecommunication’ could cover video calls, emails, interpersonal messages, as well as cloud service providers. Since over-the-top (OTT) services such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal and others are application layers, the rules applicable on telecom service providers (TSPs) should not be extended to the former, it said.

“…services that run as application layers over these distribution services such as internet-based services cannot be considered as a resource or service which is owned and controlled by the central government or that the central government has exclusive privilege over, because, in essence, these do not distribute the natural resource but are services which are provided using the services that distribute spectrum,” IAMAI has argued in its submission.

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The policy advocacy group represents nearly all major internet and social media intermediaries operational in India as well as TSPs. Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm, though, differed from the views put forth by IAMAI.

Apart from IAMAI, policy advocacy groups such as BSA, Software Alliance, Information Technology Industry Council, Internet Society, and Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) have also flagged the expanded definition of ‘telecommunications’ as envisaged in the draft bill.

The inclusion of internet-based communication services, email and OTT communication services would adversely impact the “seamless user experience”, IAMAI has argued.

Since the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is also working on a draft of the Digital India Act, which seeks to update the Information Technology Act of 2000. The inclusion of these services under the ambit of DoT as well would disrupt businesses, the policy advocacy group has said.

Apart from the broad definition of telecommunication, IAMAI has also objected to the draft bill’s proposal to give the government wide-ranging powers of decryption, disclosure, and interception of messages.

“The provision for disclosing information is very vague and could conceivably include proprietary information and encrypted information – which could violate the rights of users and companies,” it said in its submission.

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