Coming, a super-regulator for broadcasting, IT and telecom

Thomas K Thomas Mumbai | Updated on March 13, 2018

As lines between telecom, broadcasting blur, Centre feels the need for a single legislation

The Centre has finalised the broad outline for appointing a new super-regulator governing telecom, information technology and broadcast through a new Bill. The Communication Bill will repeal four existing Acts, including the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act 1997.

The new regulator will be given wider powers, including spectrum management.

The tenure will be increased from three to five years. But the Government plans to insert a clause in the proposed Bill that will give it powers to overrule the regulator at any time. The new Bill comes after more than a decade since it was first proposed to introduce a Communications Convergence Bill in 2001 by the Vajpayee-led NDA government. The Communications Convergence Bill had also envisaged bringing in a super-regulator for the telecom and broadcasting sectors. However, this Bill lapsed after the Lok Sabha was dissolved in 2004.

“As data services grow and as the lines between telecom, broadcasting blur, there is a need for a single comprehensive legislation under a single regulatory framework.

This Government is keen to bring in a regulator which is equipped to deal with issues like network neutrality, competition, spectrum management and inter-operatability of applications, services and devices,” said a Government functionary.

One of the key regulatory principles listed in the Bill is the way interconnection charges will be applied between telecom operators and content providers.

This could be bad news for players like Google and Facebook because existing regulations do not consider what is being carried. For example, making a call from Delhi to Chennai is costlier than a Chennai to Tiruchi call. That’s because the existing regulations fixes inter-operator charges based on the distance of the call and how it is carried (fixed line or wireless).

However, under the proposed policy, indications are that charges will be based on the content being carried. So a video streaming from Youtube will attract a different charge. “We are discussing these issues at various levels. Separation of what is carried (content) from how it is carried (transmission) is definitely one of the issues,” the Government official added.

Under the Communications Bill, the Chairman of the regulatory body need not be from the IAS cadre.

The proposed Communications Commission will comprise a Chairperson and six members who should have proven professional experience in telecom, broadcasting, finance, accountancy, law or consumer affairs.

Published on November 24, 2014

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