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Draft Telecom Bill evokes concerns around proposed regulation of OTT apps

September 26 2022 ( updated Sreptember 28): The draft Telecomunication Bill released by government for public comment, has evoked some  concerns, expressed in print newspaper editorials this morning. We bring you some viewpoints
The Hindu ( editorial) September 26 2022: Over the top: On privacy and regulation of digital apps: The draft Telecomunication Bill , put out last week for public comments, hints at a disturbing governmental pursuit, for more control over a range of digital applications and over-the-top streaming services that millions of Indians use daily… This means the likes of WhatsApp, Zoom, and Netflix will be considered telecommunication services… it is not just technology that has evolved in over a century but also a democratic society’s understanding and expectations of user rights, privacy and transparency. Not long ago, the highest court in the country acknowledged a citizen’s right to privacy as a fundamental right. This draft, however, disappoints on the above counts.
Financial Express ( news item)  September 26 2022: Telecom Bill: I&B Ministry objects to ‘encroachment’: The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry has objected to the inclusion of ‘broadcasting services’ and ‘over-the-top (OTT) communication services’ as part of ‘telecommunication services’ in the draft telecommunication Bill, which was released last week.Sources said that I&B ministry officials have written to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) objecting to this encroachment of its domain and that, too, without any prior consultations. It has sought clarifications from the DoT on the matter.
Hindu Businessline  ( editorial) September 25 2022: Future Calls: The Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022 is perhaps the most comprehensive overhaul of rules undertaken in the telecom sector. The Centre would, however, do well to utilise the consultation process to iron out the problem areas.
The Telegraph ( editorial) September 26 2022:Crossed Wires:  Is there a Cheshire Cat in the Narendra Modi government and has its grin widened after the draft Indian telecommunication bill 2022 was tossed into the public domain last week? The draft bill has triggered consternation on several counts. The immediate cause for alarm is the attempt to bring over-the-top communication services like WhatsApp, Telegram and Google Duo within the realm of regulation. The umbrella legislation also threatens to create a regulatory quagmire that could encourage whimsicality in decision-making…The draft bill clearly states that OTT services will be subject to licensing unless the government decides to grant an exemption. The diminution of TRAI’s role means that the government will not be obliged to consider the regulator’s recommendations.
Deccan Herald Tread with caution on Telecom Law:The Bill seeks to dilute the powers of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and vest more powers with the government. There is the continued need for an independent regulator with adequate powers and the case is for increasing those power...
Financial Express Short on transparency: What defeats the purpose is that the drafting seems to have not been done in a transparent manner. True, industry associations were asked to send their inputs, but these were never placed in the public domain. Even consultations between different wings of the government seem to have been given a pass.
Our earlier report with a copy of the draft bill