Draft Telecom Bill relaxes penal provision, includes OTT calling into ambit
The Department of Telecom has put the Draft Indian Telecommunications Bill, 2022 up for stakeholder comments, by October 20, 2022. The government has increased the scope of telecommunication services by including over-the-top (OTT), internet-based and satellite-based communication services besides inflight, maritime, broadcasting, internet and broadband services within its ambit. The bill will also give the government power to waive fee, interest, additional charges, penalty or grant exceptions from the provisions of the bill while penal provisions for breach of license conditions have also been relaxed and categorised by level of severity and penalties vary from written warning to a maximum of Rs 5 crore.
The bill also mentions that auction will be the key means for allocation of spectrum but it also provides an enabling framework for assignment of spectrum through administrative process or non-auction methods for radio backhaul spectrum and airwaves for government and public interest sectors such as defence, research and transportation. We highlight that apart from including OTT services or lowering penal provision, the bill largely reiterates the provision from Telecom relief package introduced last year, including conversion of sues into equity in case of financial stress.