India government publishes draft telecommunications law for public consultation News
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India government publishes draft telecommunications law for public consultation

The India Ministry of Communications Thursday initiated a public consultation process for its proposed Indian Telecommunications Bill. The bill would allow regulation of  internet-based communication services operating in India and seeks to repeal and consolidate the Indian Telegraph Act, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Protection) Act.

The bill broadly defines telecommunications services as:

service of any description (including broadcasting services, electronic mail, voice mail, voice, video and data communication services, audiotex services, videotex services, fixed and mobile services, internet and broadband services, satellite based communication services, internet based communication services, in-flight and maritime connectivity services, interpersonal communications services, machine to machine communication services, over-the-top (OTT) communication services) which is made available to users by telecommunication, and includes any other service that the Central Government may notify to be telecommunication services.

The bill’s broad OTT regulation provisions have raised preliminary concerns as to the potential regulatory conflict between the proposed bill and India’s Information Technology Act, which has historically governed the regulation of OTT services in the country. The bill also allows government agencies to intercept communication services-based messages on the nebulous justification of “the occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of the public safety” and contains provisions granting immunity to federal and state governments and agents from any lawsuits for any actions “done in good faith” under the act.

The bill would also prohibit individuals who are operating communications services from furnishing any false particulars, suppressing any material information or impersonating another person and enabling the federal government to prescribe measures requiring prior consent of users for receiving “any message offering, advertising or promoting goods, services, interest in property, business opportunity, employment opportunity or investment opportunity.”

The public may comment on the bill until October 20.