The Big Telecom Reform

The Telecommunications Bill 2023 offers a radical new approach to telecom regulation. It replaces the license-based regime with a more legislative approach that can only be good for the sector. There is much that remains to be done to get this right but the law is a step in the right direction.

Looking Back

A reflection on the tech policy developments in India during 2022. While my initial predictions about data protection laws and tech sector reforms didn’t unfold as expected, there have been positive strides in India’s digital public infrastructure, like the UPI payment system and Account Aggregator ecosystem. India’s upcoming G20 presidency could further spotlight its techno-legal approach to regulation.

Poorly Defined

The Department of Telecommunications has released a draft bill to replace the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885, aiming to reimagine the regulation of the telecom sector in India. The draft includes provisions for the government’s exclusive privilege to provide telecommunication services. It also brings obligations from license agreements into the statute, requiring parliamentary approval for amendments. The draft has been criticized for its broad definition of “telecommunication services,” potentially affecting over-the-top (OTT) services, and for loosely defined terms that could create loopholes.

Rethinking Telecom Regulation

The DOT is looking to revamp the Indian Telegraph Act to upgrade it to a modern law. If we had a blank slate to reimagine the law what would it look like. I suggest that we do away with the license regime and put all the regulations into the law. This way services providers just sign up a single document signifying that they are bound by the law and the regulations. Then we should simplify the entire system by simply dividing all telecom services into either carriage or access services and prescribing obligations in that manner. Lets make it technology neutral - especially when it comes to distinctions between voice and data.

The Great Unbundling of WiFi

India’s reliance on mobile data has exposed educational disparities during lockdown, with many students unable to access online learning. The newly approved Prime Minister Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (PM-WANI) aims to radically alter data services by unbundling components, encouraging entrepreneurial opportunities, and potentially improving accessibility and quality of internet connectivity.