Pleading helplessness, Sibal says government has no control over Internet

A month after new guidelines on telemarketing calls came into force, pesky SMSes are still bothering mobile phone users, thanks to the Internet on which companies are offering free or cost-effective solutions to send bulk SMS.

Even Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal on Thursday expressed his helplessness in dealing with the problem. “I have also got complaints about pesky SMSes coming via the Internet. We have no control over the Internet as the servers of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are situated abroad…we have no solution for that [such situation],” he told journalists at the Economic Editors Conference here.

A drop, nevertheless

However, Mr. Sibal pointed out, the “level of nuisance” from unsolicited calls and SMS had come down since the new guidelines were introduced by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

Some telecom operators have also started penalising telemarketing firms which are violating the stringent guidelines under ‘The Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations.'

The new TRAI regulations to curb pesky calls say violators can be penalised up to Rs.2.5 lakh, while habitual offenders would be blacklisted.

However, the Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) has blamed mobile operators for failing to check circulation of pesky SMSes originating from the Internet.

“Mr. Sibal is correct when he says the government has no control over ISPs…but mobile operators can definitely block pesky SMS by filtering messages that generate from the Internet. Subscribers are receiving Internet-generated SMS as the operators are allowing it to be routed from their system…they should strengthen their network security to block such SMS,” ISPAI president Rajesh Chharia told The Hindu.

Referring to the issue of allowing only 100 SMSes per subscriber per day, Mr. Sibal said youth, representatives of companies, schools and other organisations had pointed to practical difficulties in limiting the number of messages. “The TRAI will have to evolve a policy or mechanism to take care of these glitches. It will have to take into account experiences of customers and accordingly take corrective measures,” the Minister said.

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