Updated December 18th, 2023 at 16:19 IST
Ashwini Vaishnaw proposes Telecommunications Bill 2023 to enhance national security
Cabinet-approved bill aims to replace 138-year-old telecom law, granting government control for national security.
Union Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Monday introduced the Telecommunications Bill, 2023, in the Lok Sabha during the winter session of Parliament.
The draft bill, approved by the Cabinet in August, aims to replace the 138-year-old Indian Telegraph Act governing the telecom sector. If passed, the bill would empower the government to take over, manage, or suspend the use of any telecom services or networks for national security reasons.
The proposed legislation seeks to redefine telecommunication services, excluding over-the-top (OTT) players like WhatsApp and Telegram from regulatory oversight, focusing on enhancing user safety. In cases of public emergencies or for public safety, the government could temporarily take possession of telecommunication services or networks.
Streamlining telecom regulations
The bill also grants the government the authority to waive entry fees, licence fees, and penalties among others, promote competition and ensure the availability and continuity of telecom networks, alongside addressing national security concerns. Additionally, it proposes relaxing rules related to the refund of fees for licences and registrations if a company surrenders its permit.
If enacted, the bill could expedite the launch of services by bypassing auctions in the administrative allocation of telecom spectrum. This potential change is anticipated to benefit major telecom players such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel's OneWeb, and Elon Musk's Starlink.
In a separate development, the Lok Sabha faced disruptions as Opposition MPs demanded a statement from Union Home Minister Amit Shah regarding a security breach on December 13.
The incident involved two individuals entering the Lok Sabha chamber, releasing coloured smoke, and shouting slogans before being subdued. The lower house witnessed adjournments due to ongoing protests by Opposition MPs.
(With PTI Inputs)
Published December 18th, 2023 at 16:19 IST