Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has said that the government through its Telecom Bill is aiming to bring in 'Light Touch' regulations for Over the Top (OTT) platforms. He also said that the reforms would help subscribers get relief from spam calls and messages.
While addressing a press conference, the Union Minister of Railways, Communications and Electronics and Information Technology said that the bill will work as protection of the users.
"Wherever possible the regulation should have very effective means of achieving the objective. We have to make strict effective regulation wherever required, but rest in all the places there will be light touch and simple regulations, so nobody will have to face any hassle. This bill will work as protection of users," Mr Vaishnaw said.
The Union Minister further said that the draft telecom bill is currently under consultation with all the stakeholders and a final draft will be made based on the consultation.
"Apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal will come under the ambit of Telecom Bill. The draft bill includes OTT, Communication services as well in the definition of telecom services," Mr Vaishnaw said.
Apps like Whatsapp, Zoom, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Microsoft Teams, and Google Duo which provide calling and messaging services may soon require licences to operate in India, according to the draft bill.
The Union Minister said that they are expecting the cyber frauds to come down after the bill is passed.
According to a report in The Hindu, Mr Vaishnaw said, "All of you know that there has been a rise in cases where people get a call saying I am calling from XYZ bank seeking financial details leading to fraud... or you get threats from unknown numbers... so, we have introduced a lot of points for user protection and to prevent cyber fraud."
Speaking about calls on other platforms like WhatsApp and Zoom, the minister further said, "Whichever type of call it is, if someone is calling me, I have the right to know who is calling. This is a right that every user has and has been put in to the Act (new bill)."
The move could offer mobile phone users protection against spam calls and fraudulent messages.
"It will take at least 6-10 months before this bill becomes an Act. After the consultation process, we will prepare the final draft. Post that it will go to the Parliament for consideration and passing. We are expecting cyber frauds to come down after it becomes the law," said Minister.
The Union Minister said that Telecom is the entry point of Digital India and it will help in taking forward the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi step by step.
"Telecom is the entry point of the digital India. After that comes data protection. Followed by the Digital India Act. We have to take the vision of Prime Minister methodically step by step. The two most important points of the Telecom bill are consumer protection, and making sure that regulation is very clear in terms of who is doing what and who is affecting whose life," Mr Vaishnaw said.
"According to the draft bill, all the existing rules, regulations, exemptions, etc. will continue. There would be no retrospective amendment to the terms and conditions and all the existing licenses, existing registrations and existing spectrum will continue," Mr Vaishnaw further said.
In his presentation, Mr Vaishnaw said, "Currently India has three laws. Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1932 and Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950. These laws require to change now as the technology has changed considerably and need a modern law. We need a specific legal framework for Spectrum, Right of Way, Insolvency, etc."
The Union Minister said that the bill has KYC and DND provisions and it will facilitate wireless equipment not requiring a license.
"This draft bill has Know Your Customers (KYC) provisions, protection from unsolicited messages, enables provisions for Do Not Disturb (DND) registers. It makes the identity of caller visible to the receiver to prevent frauds and it is the duty of the user to give correct KYC information," Mr Vaishnaw said.
"According to the draft bill, wireless equipment no longer require license, they only need authorisation. Spectrum will be given through auctions with exceptions for government purposes, which includes defence, transportation, etc" the Union Minister further said.
The Union Minister said that the government is doing 'Spectrum Reforms' through the bill which aims towards the most effective use of spectrum.
"Through this bill, the government is doing 'Spectrum Reforms' like, Spectrum re-farming or re-harmonization, Spectrum sharing, trading, leasing, using Technology agnostic, using unused spectrum to government and surrender of spectrum. Our focus is on the effective use of spectrum," Mr Vaishnaw said.
"In this draft bill offences are updated and archaic provisions have been removed. There is a clear distinction between major offences and routine mistakes. In the bill, compounding provisions are included and cognizable and compoundable are based on seriousness of the offence," the Union Minister further said.