DoT proposes super-regulator for telecom, broadcasting sectors

Thomas K. Thomas New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on January 27, 2013

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Seeks to revive Communications Convergence Bill

After more than a decade since it was first proposed, the Department of Telecom (DoT) is planning to revive the Communications Convergence Bill which envisages bringing in a super-regulator for the telecom and broadcasting sectors.

DoT has constituted a committee to develop a conceptual framework for the Bill.

According to DoT’s action plan, the committee is expected to give its report by end-February, after which an inter-ministerial committee will draft the Bill by mid-March.

“The objective is to establish a single regulatory framework for carriage of multi-faceted communications, IT and multi-media,” stated DoT’s action plan document.

The original Communications Convergence Bill was drafted in 2000 under the BJP-led NDA Government.

This Bill had contemplated the establishment of an autonomous body to be called the Communication Commission of India, entrusted with wide-ranging functions, duties and powers.

The main aim was to establish a single regulatory and licensing authority with defined powers, procedures and functions and an Appellate Tribunal.

However, the Bill was shelved due to difference of opinion between the Telecom and the Information & Broadcasting Ministries on bringing the broadcasting sector under this super-regulator.

It is not clear how DoT plans to overcome these differences under the new Bill.

Division of powers, a sore point

Under the current system, the licensing power is with DoT while dispute settlement power is with the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has only a recommendatory role with some powers to enforce licence terms and conditions. This division of power has led to complications with one arm not agreeing with the other on many occasions.

There have also been instances when DoT has blamed TRAI for certain policy decisions.

For example, after the recent failure of the 2G spectrum auction, the Telecom Ministry blamed TRAI for fixing a high reserve price.

Industry watchers said that while the idea of a super-regulator is good, it would take political will to implement it as it may take away a lot of powers from the Telecom Ministry.

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Published on January 27, 2013
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