A super regulator for TV, internet, mobile services in offing

  • Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 07, 2014 20:27 IST

A super-regulator for telecom, television and internet could soon become a reality with the National Democratic Alliance government deciding to revive the Communications Convergence Bill that was dumped by the previous UPA government.

Telecom ministry headed by Ravi Shankar Prasad has firmed up a proposal for setting up the cross sector regulator --- the Communications Commission --- having over-riding powers to oversee entire communication framework including those under the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

The last NDA government headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee had introduced the Communication Convergence Bill in Lok Sabha in 2001 and the Parliamentary Standing Committee submitting its report a year later.

The NDA government took almost two years to convince the I&B ministry about importance of the proposed law and by that time its term got over and the bill lapsed. The UPA government in its 10 years did not pursue the bill seen as the NDA government’s idea.

Government sources said Prasad is keen to push the Communications Convergence Bill after getting Parliamentary nod for National Judicial Appointments Commission. In an interview to DD news, Prasad confirmed that the bill was being considered but added that it was still in infancy stage.

However, the officials said that the broad contours of the Bill have been firmed with the Commission having seven members including the chairperson and an appellate authority. Each member would be a domain expert on areas such as telecom, broadcasting, information technology, law and consumer affairs and finance.

The commission will have well defined powers and procedures for regulatory and licensing functions. It will not regulate in areas where market competition can provide desired results, an official said, adding that its main function would be to stimulate completion for better services and preventing monopolistic operations.

The department of telecom has also proposed mandatory sharing of infrastructure for universal access in unserved and undeserved areas and for public safety. The bill may also make it mandatory for the companies to create infrastructure in strategically important areas. However, the government would continue setting up standard for the sectors to be covered by the proposed law.

The bill, if enacted, would replace two colonial laws --- the Indian Telegraph Act and Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act --- and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act. It also proposed to amend the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act and Information Technology Act to provide for setting up of the commission.

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