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Broadcasting and telecom ministries, department of space to work closely to avoid telecom law conflicts

Telecom ministry officials will work with their counterparts in the broadcasting ministry and department of space to implement the rules incorporated in the Indian Telecommunications Bill after it becomes a law to prevent conflicts in regulation, a senior government official said.

The potential for overlapping of regulation may arise due to the expansion of the definition of telecommunications in the draft telecom bill to include over-the-top (OTT) communication apps, broadcasting, satellite and communication over the internet.

The official said that the draft version of the telecom bill will be released for stakeholder consultations in the coming months and will become an umbrella Act under which several ministries are likely to be covered.

“The individual ministries will see which parts of the Act apply to them and are authorized under the rules of allocation of business prescribed for that ministry. The regulations for communication, broadcasting and e-commerce will be handled by the respective ministries,” the official said, asking not to be named.

“For instance, only the broadcasting ministry will make the rules for the broadcasting sector and deal with the subject, so they will handle the part of the bill that talks about broadcasting, so there is no conflict at all,” the official added.

The approach will be adopted in the consultations that are likely to begin once all the comments and views from various stakeholders, including industry, regulators and government departments, are submitted by the 10 November deadline.

The official said that the same approach is likely to be taken while dealing with over-the-top (OTT) communication apps, stating that the apps offering broadcasting services will be regulated by the ministry of broadcasting, while OTT apps offering e-commerce services would fall under the ambit of the ministry of commerce.

“The idea is to ensure simple regulation and not multiple regulations. The discussions within the ministries will be held with this principle in mind,” the official said.

The approach may put to rest objections reportedly raised by the ministry of information and broadcasting, alluding to encroachment on its domain by the telecom department without holding inter-ministerial discussions before issuing the draft telecom bill.

A second official said that after holding the first round of stakeholder discussions, the draft telecom bill would be reviewed, and a second version of the bill would be drafted before it is sent to the Parliament.

Parliamentary panels are also submitting their views on the draft telecom bill, in a departure from the past practice of taking the bill to the panels after stakeholder consultations. The standing committee of Parliament on information technology, which met last month, sought responses from the telecom department on the ability of the provisions in the bill to ensure data safety and privacy. Live Mint

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