Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has asked the government to file a reply over the plea of Internet service providers opposing imposition of licence fee of 4 per cent of their adjusted gross revenue (AGR).

A TDSAT bench, headed by Justice S. B. Sinha, has issued notice to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology asking it to file the reply within two weeks.

The tribunal has also granted time to service providers; lobby group Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPAI) to file rejoinder and listed the matter to August 8 for next hearing.

In its petition, ISPAI has submitted that the government cannot “unilaterally amend the licence fee during the currency of the licence agreement”.

The government, in an order on June 26, 2012, imposed an annual licence fee of 4 per cent of AGR on Internet providers, who were not providing Internet-based telephone services.

Earlier, the service providers were only providing a notional licence fee of Re.1 only. Those who were providing Internet telephony and paying a fee of 6 per cent of AGR, have been asked to pay 7 per cent.

Moreover, from April, 2013, both ISPs providing Internet or Internet with telephony services will have to pay licence fee of 8 per cent of their AGR.

The Internet service providers have requested the tribunal to “quash and set aside the impugned circular” or to pass “an ad-interim ex-parte order staying the operation of the impugned circular” immediately.

In the petition, service providers have said that they have licence contracts with the Ministry of Communications and IT, having clear provision of licence fee.

“A contract cannot be unilaterally amended by one of the parties without the consent of the other,” they said.