New Telecom Bill UPSC NOTE

 How does the government plan to consolidate the law for wireless networks and Internet service providers?

  • The Bill governs authorisation of telecommunication networks and services.

  • Bill provides  auctioning as well as administrative allocation of spectrum.

  • Bill defines the mechanism for exercising the right of way for laying telecom infrastructure such as cables in public as well as private property. 

  • It also spells out emergency measures the government can take in the interest of national security and public safety such as intercept

  • messages, suspend telecommunication services as well as take temporary possession of any telecommunication service or network. 

  • The Bill also states that rules will be framed to protect consumers with the setting up of a ‘Do Not Disturb’ register to ensure they don’t receive a specified class of messages without prior consent.

  • The Bill governs a whole host of services, including over-the-top services such as WhatsApp, Telegram and email services like Gmail through a broad definition for

‘telecommunication’ which is given as “transmission, emission or reception of any messages, by wire, radio, optical or other electro-magnetic systems.

  • This vast definition entails that every internet app within India has to comply with the law.

  • The Bill also marks a shift from a licensing regime to an authorisation regime, where all telecommunication services in India.

Has the licensing procedure been eased for telecom operators?

  • The new Telecommunications Bill, 2023, is draconian and provides a legal architecture for mass surveillance and internet shutdowns

  • Among its several contentious clauses is the requirement that all users have to be identified through the use of “verifiable biometric based identification as may be prescribed” by telecommunication service providers. 

  • Further, it requires that no user shall furnish any false particulars or suppress material information. 

  • This could impede whistle-blowers as well as journalists who operate under anonymity. 

  • If users fail to comply, they will be charged a hefty penalty from ₹25,000 to ₹1,00,000 for some provisions.

  • Most of the contentious provisions are contained in Chapter IV, which grants emergency powers to the Central government in the interest of public safety and national security. 

  • Section 19 (f) empowers the Central government to notify “standards and conformity assessment measures” in respect of encryption and data processing.

  • The government’s interest in breaking up encryption of WhatsApp and Signal has to be seen in the backdrop of a controversy over Israeli company NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware

targeting 300 mobile phone numbers for illegal surveillance, including Opposition leaders, lawyers, activists and journalists in India.

  • It also allows the Central or a State government during a public emergency, including disaster management, and in the interest of public safety to take “temporary possession of any telecommunication service or network”. 

  • It can take over control and management of such services or networks. 

  • It can intercept messages on the pretext of “preventing incitement to the commission of any offence”, and direct suspension of telecommunication services in such circumstances like the shutdown of Internet seen in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir.

What are industry players saying?

  • The Digital Infrastructure Providers Association (DIPA) and the Cellular Operators’ Association of India have welcomed the provisions in the Bill that bring uniformity across States in terms of ‘right of way’ rules and regulations.

  • These, they say, will also address long-standing issues for telecom infrastructure providers, including capping of charges, and deployment of telecom infrastructure on private property.

  • The telecommunication network is not considered part of the property for transactions or tax purposes, and hence the Bill is also welcomed for providing relief to the infrastructure industry from the additional exorbitant tax burden.

  • The Indian Space Association has thanked the government for including satellite-based communication networks for allocation of spectrum by administrative method. 

  • But an international group of organisations and experts such as the Signal Foundation, the Internet Freedom Foundation and the Internet Press Institute have written to Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and underlined that interception of message will enable “indiscriminate surveillance” and weaken online safety

What are the concerns raised by digital rights groups?

  • The authority to suspend the internet has been granted without dwelling over procedural safeguards recommended by the Supreme Court as well as the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology. 

  • The groups have, therefore, demanded that the Bill be withdrawn in its current form.

  • The groups say that the Bill creates uncertainties around the ability of service providers to offer strong encryption, and develop privacy-respecting innovations.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: New Telecom Bill UPSC NOTE
New Telecom Bill UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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