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NEW DELHI : The government may introduce a separate draft law to make the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) a permanent technical body, on the lines of the UK and US communications regulators, with powers to penalize companies that fail to meet quality standards, a top official said.

The official said that the draft telecom bill would drop the controversial provisions related to the dilution of powers of the telecom regulator.

The contentious draft telecom bill proposed to delete provisions of the Trai Act that provide checks and balances via a consultation process between the regulator and the telecom department.

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Some contended this would diminish Trai’s power and turn it into a recommendatory body with no real powers.

Differences between Trai and the government over the draft bill surfaced over the past few weeks, with some reports saying Trai was uneasy with the proposed changes in the draft telecom bill.

However, the differences over the provisions were amicably resolved after officers of the telecom department and members of Trai held several meetings over the past few weeks to discuss the provisions, the official said.

“It’s been decided that we wait for the bill to be absorbed by the industry and come up with a new bill for Trai after three to four years. Therefore, we have removed almost all of the amendments," the person said.

The draft bill will have a second version, which is likely to incorporate the changes, the official said.

The proposed bill would make Trai a powerful body, similar to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the US and Ofcom of the United Kingdom, the person said, adding that the revamped regulator would have international ideals and dedicated human resources instead of government officials on deputation to supervise the sector effectively.

Trai was set up as a regulatory body in 1997.

Any changes to the regulator’s structure would have to be undertaken through amendments to the Trai Act or—as is the case with the draft telecom bill—through a new bill for the sector regulator.

It makes recommendations to the government to levy fines or penalties on telecom operators if they fail to meet the quality of service norms. However, the recommendations are not binding on the government.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gulveen Aulakh

Gulveen Aulakh is Senior Assistant Editor at Mint, serving dual roles covering the disinvestment landscape out of New Delhi, and the telecom & IT sectors as part of the corporate bureau. She had been tracking several government ministries for the last ten years in her previous stint at The Economic Times. An IIM Calcutta alumnus, Gulveen is fluent in French, a keen learner of new languages and avid foodie.
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