Parliament proceedings | Lok Sabha passes Telecom Bill 2023, to replace 138-year-old Indian Telegraph Act

The Bill seeks to reform and simplify the regulatory and licensing regime for telecommunications and remove bottlenecks in creating telecom infrastructure

Updated - December 21, 2023 08:51 am IST

Published - December 20, 2023 09:59 pm IST - New Delhi:

Union Minister for Railways and Communications Ashwini Vaishnaw speaks in the Lok Sabha on December 20, 2023. Photo: swansad TV via ANI

Union Minister for Railways and Communications Ashwini Vaishnaw speaks in the Lok Sabha on December 20, 2023. Photo: swansad TV via ANI

The Lok Sabha on December 20 passed the omnibus Telecom Bill 2023 which will replace existing laws, including the 138-year-old Indian Telegraph Act.

The Bill seeks to reform and simplify the regulatory and licensing regime for telecommunications and remove bottlenecks in creating telecom infrastructure. It also allows the government to temporarily take control of telecom services in the interest of national security and provide a non-auction route for the allocation of satellite spectrum.

Also read | A word of advice on OTT and the draft telecom Bill

The Bill was passed by a voice vote after a short discussion. Most of the Opposition members did not attend the House following their suspension.

The Telecom Bill 2023 provides a mechanism to exercise the right of way for laying telecom infrastructure in public as well as private property. The Central government may provide for measures to protect users such as requiring prior consent to receive specified messages, and creation of a do not disturb register.

Authorisation will be also be required from the Central government to establish and operate telecommunications networks, provide telecommunications services or possess radio equipment.

Spectrum will be allocated through auction, except for specified entities and purposes for which it will be assigned administratively.

“The Bill has clearly defined the reasons for which administratively spectrum would be allocated,” Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw said replying to the debate on the Bill before its passage.

‘Biggest reforms in sector’

“The Bill will usher in the biggest reforms in the sector … Now there will be one simple authorisation instead of 100 licences,” he said.

Telecommunication may be intercepted on specified grounds, including security of the state, public order, or prevention of offences. Telecom services may be suspended on similar grounds.

“On the occurrence of any public emergency, including disaster management, or in the interest of public safety, the Central government or a State government or any officer specially authorised in this behalf by the Central government or a State government, if satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do, by notification — take temporary possession of any telecommunication service or telecommunication network from an authorised entity,” the Bill said.

The Bill was introduced on December 18 in the Lower House and would now be presented to the Rajya Sabha for passage.

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