Telecommunications Bill, 2023 introduced in Lok Sabha On 18th December 2023, the Telecommunications Bill, 2023 was introduced in the Lok Sabha based on a recommendation made by the President. Amidst existing con… more
Context of the Draft Telecom Bill - Key Issues & Concerns
The draft Telecom BIll, published by the Indian government in September 2022, aims to bring significant changes to the telecom sector by replacing outdated laws, including the century-old Indian Telegraph Act of 1885. The telecom bill is expected to be introduced in the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament, and is likely to have a significant impact on businesses and consumers if adopted in its current form.
The bill deals with several key issues, including licensing norms, spectrum allocation, consumer protection and surveillance. Some of the key proposals include:
- A mandatory licensing regime that would include communication services like Whatsapp, Signal and Telegram; video conferencing applications like Skype, Zoom and Google Meet; M2M services including IoT applications; media and broadcasting; and other data-led services.
- An extension of the government’s broad powers to intercept and monitor messages and to suspend telecom services in the case of public emergencies or threats to public safety.
- Promoting infrastructure development and domestic manufacturing in the telecom sector through R&D activities, and streamlining the spectrum allocation process
- Strengthening the consumer protection framework by imposing strict regulations on service quality and introducing grievance redressal mechanisms
Some of these proposals raise serious concerns with respect to consumer privacy, ease of doing business and the overall impact on innovation.
Keeping this in mind, Hasgeek aims to foster greater engagement between policymakers and the technology community with a series of deliberations on the bill.
Why it is important to engage on this issue?
The telecom industry is experiencing significant changes driven by technologies such as 5G, IoT, and AI, enabling innovative services and new business models. Telcos are diversifying into content and payments, while startups are entering sectors like agriculture and healthcare. An effective telecom bill is crucial to capitalise on these opportunities, incentivise innovation, and maintain operational efficiency.
However, the draft telecom bill raises serious concerns. It could increase costs for telecom operators and startups, hinder access to affordable services, and impede progress towards universal access goals. Moreover, the draft bill compromises user privacy. It expands government surveillance powers, introduces new identity verification norms, and weakens privacy rights. Additionally, the bill allows for arbitrary internet shutdowns during emergencies, without adequate safeguards.
To ensure a thriving telecom sector, it is essential to strike a balance between regulatory oversight and safeguarding user rights. For this to happen, policymakers, the technology community, users and civil society need to have a deeper dialogue on the proposed telecom bill.
This event is free to attend.
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Who should attend this discussion?
- Startup teams building products across the infrastructure, application and services layers
- Investors tracking the telecom, IT and media sectors in India
- Individual consumers who will be directly affected if the bill is adopted
- Civil society actors engaged in defending the rights of users
- Think tanks developing a research agenda on these issues
- Policymakers including government officials and regulators in the telecom sector
- Lawyers and policy advisors advising clients on the impact of the bill
Key outcomes for participants
- Join a forum for startups, technologists, industry representatives, and policymakers to engage on the issues with the Bill.
- Make a submission to the government during the session as the (draft) Telecom Bill may be tabled at the monsoon session of the Parliament.
Agenda & Speakers
This is an in-person event
- Context setting discussion and recap of the discussion at the online event between Kunal Raj Barua and Mousomi Panda from the Aapti Institute, and Amlan Mohanty.
- Panel discussion on the technical impact of India’s Telecom Bill on spam, encryption, KYC, and user privacy with Kunal Raj Barua (Senior Manager, Aapti Institute), Rishu Mehrotra (Technology Leader, Merkle Science), Nikhil Narendran (Partner, Trilegal), and Vivek Jathanna (Vice President - New Initiatives, Exotel). The discussion will be moderated by Amlan Mohanty.