[Answered] Do you agree that the Draft Telecom Bill enhances unease of doing business? Give reasons for your arguments.

Introduction: Contextual introduction.
Body: Explain how the Draft Telecom Bill enhances unease of doing business.  Also write its significance in ease of doing business.

Conclusion: Write a way forward.

The Draft Telecommunication Bill, 2022 seeks to replace the colonial era legislation that regulated the sector, the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885. Through the bill, the Centre aims to consolidate and amend the existing laws governing the provision, development, expansion and operation of telecom services, networks and infrastructure.

Enhances unease of doing business:

  • Licence regime for OTT services: This is a deep concern from a surveillance and freedom of speech aspect as well. Given that OTTs have also been defined as telecom services, industry stakeholders have raised the concern of end-to-end encryptions being weakened or possibly broken in order to intercept the communications.
  • Internet shutdowns: On the occurrence of any public emergency, the Union or State Governments can order the suspension of communication serviceson any telecommunication network which is a threat to an open and free internet and also cause economic losses.
  • Bankruptcy provisions: The Bill also overrides provisions of the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code(IBC), which might complicate resolution proceedings.
  • The draft Bill plans to confine TRAI’s powers to making recommendations onlyif requested by the DoT. At present, TRAI has no powers of enforcement of its directives and can’t levy penalties on telecom companies.

However some provisions enhance the ease of doing business in following manner:

  • Expansion:Over-The-Top’ (OTT) communication services have been included in the telecommunication services. This expands the definition to include all instant messaging, video, call applications like, Zoom, Telegram etc.
  • Licensing and Registration: It grants the Union Government the ‘exclusive privilege’ to ‘provide telecommunication services’, operate networks and issue licences to telecom service providers.
  • Spectrum allocation: The Bill states that the Union Government shall assign spectrum to best serve the common good and ensure widespread access to telecommunication services.
  • Reduces the burden on telecom companies: The Draft Telecommunication Bill has provided a framework governing payment defaults by licensees, registered entities, or assignees, and allows the government to write-off of such amounts or part thereof.
  • Right of Way (ROW): It would be enforceable at the State and at the Municipal Corporation level. It lays down a framework in which a public entity that owns the land has to grant ‘right of way’ permission expeditiously unless it gives a substantive ground for refusal.

As India embarks on its Amritkaal phase, there have been calls for liberation from the colonial mindset. Hence, the Government must remove the provisions which are similar to the colonial-era legislations.

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