Thomas K Thomas

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Thomas K Thomas

Telecom, lost in politics of JPC

Thomas K Thomas April 23 | Updated on April 23, 2013 Published on April 23, 2013
JPC Chairman, P. C. Chacko arrives to address a press conference

JPC

While the JPC report on 2G has created a political storm, everyone has missed the real point- what should be done to resolve issues facing the telecom sector

The report by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on 2G has brought the Parliament to a standstill with political parties trading charge on each other.

While the Opposition wants an explanation on how the report gives a clean chit to Prime Minister for the 2008 policy on allocating licences, the ruling Congress-led alliance has used the report to sling some dirt back on the BJP-led NDA alliance by digging up flaws in policy making from 1999 onwards.

But amidst this brouhaha everyone has forgotten the real issue. No one is talking about issues facing the telecom sector, which is what the JPC report was initially aimed at.

The report itself does not offer any specific recommendations on how the policy making in the sector can be improved. While it does list out the flawed processes followed by the DoT since 1994, the report does not give any ideas on how to avoid the mistakes in the future.

The spectrum scam in 2008 no doubt shook the nation. It was the culmination of a decade long mismanagement of processes at the Department of Telecom. As the JPC report points out that right from 1994 onwards there were serious flaws in the way decisions were being made at the department. There was no consistency.

If licences were given through a bidding process in 1994, it was changed to a revenue sharing system in 1999. Then in 2001 it was back to an auction system only to fall back on the subscriber linked criteria in 2002. Constant flip flops and frequent change of goal posts has created uncertainty in the sector.

The political storm has only aggravated the problems faced by the sector, which is in dire need of regulatory intervention. A number of critical issues have to be decided including spectrum pricing, allocation process, re-farming and licence renewal for incumbent players.

There are also larger policy issues related to the viability of the sector that awaits a thorough look by the decision makers. If only they were not so busy taking pot shots at each other and scoring brownie points over insignificant things like who leaked the draft JPC report to the media.

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Published on April 23, 2013
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