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BIF submits its recommendations for new government’s 100-day plan

Aligned with the country’s ambition of reaching 1 trillion digital economy by 2025 and 7 trillion overall economy by 2030, Broadband India Forum (BIF) has made suggestions for the comprehensive 100-day action plan being formulated by the Government. BIF’s plan puts forward specific recommendations for various ministries, encompassing critical aspects such as Spectrum policy, Promoting public good through Delicensed 6GHz Wi-Fi Spectrum, Digital economy growth, OTT regulation, Online Gaming, Internet governance, Satellite communications, Network and Device manufacturing, Broadband infrastructure, Cybersecurity, Broadcasting, and Accessibility & Inclusivity. BIF has submitted the plan to relevant ministries, including the Department of Telecommunications, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the Department of Science and Technology, NITI Aayog, and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD).

Aruna Sundararajan (IAS Retd.), Chairperson of BIF said “Given the exciting advancements in telecom and technology this year, 2024 presents a unique opportunity for the government to accelerate progress. In the 100-day plan, the government should focus on ensuring accessibility, inclusivity, and sustainability so that the benefits of technology and innovation can reach all citizens of India equally and quickly.”

An overview of BIF’s inputs are as follows:

Spectrum Policy

  • BIF recommends the government follow distinctly different approaches for the assignment of satellite and terrestrial spectrum and decide on a mode of assignment that will lead to outcomes that meet the aims of economically efficient usage and the public good.
  • Spectrum is a valuable resource that fuels innovation and economic prosperity. Instead of viewing it solely as a source of revenue through auctions or fees, BIF recommends that Spectrum should prioritised for maximising its indirect benefits. This includes leveraging spectrum to unlock its potential for growth across personal, industrial, agricultural, healthcare, and other sectors.
  • Assess the bandwidth demands and conduct coexistence studies across spectrum bands in consultation with stakeholders as per the National Digital Communications Policy 2018 and publish it.
  • Set aside spectrum for new and emerging technologies, incubate them in a controlled regulatory environment, and provide opportunities for trials and testing.
  • Create a nodal entity to facilitate speedy and transparent spectrum trading and sharing activities like the Indian Energy Exchange.

Public good from Delicensed 6GHz WiFi Spectrum:

  • BIF recommends the allocation of the entire 6GHz spectrum band (5925-7025 MHz) in a license-exempt manner for Modern WiFi (WiF 6E & WiFi7) and Short-Range Devices to support license-exempt use-cases in healthcare, higher education and Extended Reality
  • Allocation of 6GHz for IMT could make India majorly dependent on a powerful non-trusted source.

Unlocking Global Competitiveness: 5G for Private Enterprise

  • Direct allotment of 5G spectrum to Private Enterprises to be done at a nominal cost to optimise operations, drive productivity, and propel India’s position as a global leader in manufacturing and service delivery.

Digital Economy

  • BIF recommends conducting wide and open multi-stakeholder consultations before finalising the draft rules for recently enacted acts such as the Digital Data Protection Act, the Telecom Act 2023 etc and the final text of the draft Digital India Bill
  • Revise the Draft Digital Competition Bill based on multi-stakeholder consultations to examine the dynamics of digital markets and necessary regulations
  • Similarly, India’s AI Framework could be finalised by the Government through engaging with industry, academia, civil society and other multi-stakeholder discussions/consultations.

OTT Regulation

  • BIF recommends the adoption of a distinct approach towards OTT applications which is different from the regulation of telecommunication and broadcasting networks.
  • OTTs to continue to be regulated under the IT Act and rules of MeitY.

Broadcasting

  • Create an enabling regulatory framework to allow private DTH players to operate a business model akin to DD FreeDish to address market needs and make television services more accessible & affordable and foster a more inclusive TV ecosystem.
  • MIB should work with TRAI to immediately introduce forbearance. DTH industry needs bold reforms that will restore the fundamentals of the industry and enable long-term viability, sustainability, and competitiveness.
  • Choice for D2M for India should be based on a technology-neutral and market-dependent solution through a process of adequate public consultation.

Gaming

  • BIF states that the growth of the Gaming Industry should be a high priority for the Government. Moreover, enabling a regulatory Framework to enhance growth & investment flow in gaming, and preventing security risks due to the presence of unregistered offshore platforms and illegal betting entities should be prioritized.
  • BIF recommends the government provide legal clarity to ‘online gaming’ by implementing the 2023 Amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Liability and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

Satcom

  • BIF recommends that pending final notification of rules for Telecom Act 2023, Spectrum be given on a provisional basis to help expedite the launch of satcom services.
  • Spectrum Usage Charges to be levied at 1% across all Satcom authorisations
  • Satcom Services should be exempted from payment of USOF charges
  • Use of Indian Gateway to provide Feeder Link Connectivity to Satellites outside India

Manufacturing –Networks & Devices

  • BIF recommends the Extension of MeitY’s IT PLI guidelines for Telecom PLI
  • Tweak PMI Policy to permit deemed approval for Class 2 suppliers for the purpose of public procurement
  • PLI 3.0 to increase investment in the global electronic components supply chain ecosystem.

Broadband Infrastructure

  • Enabling policies and funding for increasing FTTX connectivity to increase fiber Km per capita which should include end-to-end optical fiber manufacturing and zero license fee for fixed broadband services.
  • BIF recommends the creation of a new category of infrastructure providers namely Digital Communication Infrastructure Providers (DCIP) who can create and share passive and active infrastructure (except Spectrum and Core) to expedite the build-out of a resilient, resilient and future-ready Broadband infrastructure.
  • Mandating neutral DCI in buildings
  • Policy for promoting Public WiFi including treating PM-WANI of the status of Critical National Public Infrastructure and part of India’s DPI.
  • Liberalised Policy for Data Centres, CDNs & IXPs.

Cyber Security

  • To ensure a secure Indian cyberspace BIF recommends the notification of the National Cybersecurity Policy
  • Creation of national-level training facility equipped with the latest tools and techniques for security agencies and also increase cyber security literacy.
  • Creation of a single window to receive information like cyber threat updates, cybercrime statistics, compliance requirements or file complaints mechanisms.

Accessibility & Inclusivity

  • BIF recommends providing guidelines for immediate implementation of the IS 17802 standard for accessibility which pertains to all public procurements.
  • Make all government apps accessible to persons with disabilities.
  • Establish an online training curriculum on IS 17802 accessibility standards
  • Address two key verticals in Health and Education, where all Government hospital websites need to be made accessible pan India and provide laptops/ tablets to students with disabilities from class 9 onwards.

BCS Bureau

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