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DoT begins work on convergence policy for communications sector

The Bill will encompass services, networks and devices, and look at repealing various laws that govern the sector
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First Published: Wed, Aug 21 2013. 10 30 PM IST
Officials at the department of telecommunications declined to put a deadline as to when the Bill would be tabled in Parliament but said a draft would be ready by the end of the year. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Officials at the department of telecommunications declined to put a deadline as to when the Bill would be tabled in Parliament but said a draft would be ready by the end of the year. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Updated: Wed, Aug 21 2013. 10 59 PM IST
New Delhi: Almost 15 years after the term convergence became a buzzword and 12 years after the government first introduced the Communication Convergence Bill in Parliament, it has once again started work on the law—at a time when convergence seems more real than it did in 2001.
Officials at the department of telecommunications (DoT), which is drafting the law, declined to put a deadline as to when the Bill would be tabled in Parliament but said a draft would be ready by the end of the year. Last year’s New Telecom Policy, too, had mentioned this law as an ultimate and eventual objective.
According to a 14 August internal DoT presentation, reviewed by Mint, the Bill will encompass services, networks and devices. More significantly, it will look at repealing the various laws that govern the Indian communications sector including the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act, 1997. Apart from this, the DoT internal committee looking into the issue has also proposed modifying the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, and the Information Technology Act, 2000, to fit into the larger convergence law.
DoT has sought representatives from the ministry of information and broadcasting and the department of electronics and information technology for an inter-ministerial committee to work on the draft of the law, the presentation said.
The law will also create a separate Communications Commission that will likely replace the current Telecom Commission and a Communications Appellate Tribunal to replace the current Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).
The Telecom Commission is the highest telecom policy decision making body in the country while the TDSAT is the first point of call for legal disputes relating to the telecom and broadcasting sector.
An expert said the benefits of a convergence policy remain unclear. “A convergence policy will not solve the current issues affecting the sector, including things such as spectrum and interconnection. There are a range of issues that have to be dealt with differently,” said Mahesh Uppal, a regulatory expert and director with telecom consulting firm Com First India Pvt. Ltd.
“In the current environment where you can watch TV and make phone calls using your phone, it makes sense to have a convergence policy but the treatment of a phone call has to be different from the treatment of a mass broadcast television programme, from a policy perspective. One involves privacy issues while the other involves the regulation of content.”
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First Published: Wed, Aug 21 2013. 10 30 PM IST