EDEN IAS

Telecommunication act

Telecommunication act 2023

Telecommunication Act 2023

Why in the news?  

Recently parliament passed the Telecommunication Act 2023, which will replace the Indian Telegraph Act, of 1885 and the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, of 1933.

Need for this act.

Outdated laws:

 

The Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 and the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 are intended to be replaced by the act, which is outdated and requires new law.

 

The transformation needed in this sector: cable television networks have been used to provide Internet services, and the Internet can be used to provide access to public broadcasting.  The Department of Telecommunications has observed that the nature of telecom, its usage, and technologies have undergone a massive change since the era of the telegraph.  Hence, there is a need to restructure the legal and regulatory framework for the telecom sector

 

Security purpose: Communications may be intercepted for a number of reasons, such as maintaining public order, state security, or deterring crime.  For similar reasons, telecom services may be suspended. The Act offers a method for utilizing the right of way to install telecom equipment on both public and private land. The national government may establish safeguards for users, such as needing prior consent to receive specified messages

 

Key features of the act of Telecommunication Act 2023.

  1. Authorization for telecom-related activities:

In order to: (i) offer telecom services; (ii) create, run, maintain, or grow telecommunications networks; or (iii) own radio equipment, prior central government authorization will be neededCurrent licenses will remain in effect for the duration of their grant, or five years if no time frame is stated.

  1. Spectrum Allocating:

Unless there are specific applications for which it will be allotted administratively, spectrum will be assigned by auction.  The following are some of the designated uses: (i) transportation; (ii) weather forecasting; (iv) national security and defense; (v) satellite services, including DTH and satellite phones; (vi) BSNL, MTNL, and public broadcasting services.  Any frequency band may be repurposed or reassigned by the central authorities.  Spectrum sharing, selling, leasing, and surrender may be approved by the national government

  1. Authority to intercept and search:

For specific reasons, messages or a class of messages between two or more people may be intercepted, tracked, or blocked.  Such measures must serve specific purposes, such as (i) state security, (ii) preventing the inciting of offenses, or (iii) maintaining public order, and they must be required or advantageous in the interest of public safety or emergency.  These acts will adhere to any recommended protocol, safety measures, and time frames.

  1. User protection:

 The central government may establish the following policies to safeguard users: (i) prior consent to receive specific communications, including advertisements; (ii) Do Not Disturb registrations; and (iii) a system for users to report malicious content or specific messages.  Telecom service providers are required to set up an online grievance registration and settlement system.

  1. Appointments to TRAI:

 The Act modifies the TRAI Act to permit the appointment of persons who possess: (i) a minimum of 30 years of professional experience as the Chairperson, and (ii) a minimum of 25 years of professional experience as members.

  1. Digital Bharat Nidhi:

To provide telecom services in underserved areas, the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 established the Universal Service Obligation Fund.  This clause is kept in the act, which also permits the fund to be used for telecom research and development and renames it as Digital Bharat Nidhi.

  1. Penalties and offenses:

The Act lists a number of civil and criminal offenses.   Unauthorized access to a telecom network or data, as well as the provision of telecom services without authorization, carry penalties of up to two crore rupees in fines or three years in jail.  Violations of the authorization terms and conditions may result in a civil penalty of up to five crore rupees.  A fine of up to 10 lakh rupees can be imposed for using an unauthorized network or service or for possessing unauthorized equipment.

  1. Procedure for adjudication:

Following the Act, the central government will designate an adjudicating official to carry out investigations and issue directives concerning civil offenses.  The officer needs to be at least a joint secretary in rank.   Within thirty days, orders made by the adjudicating officer may be appealed to the Designated Appeals Committee.   Officers with at least the title of Additional Secretary will be members of this committee.  Within 30 days, appeals against the Committee’s orders on terms and conditions violations may be submitted to TDSAT.

Key issues of the act of Telecommunication Act 2023.

1.     Communication interception According to the Act, any message or group of messages sent or received by two or more people may be monitored, intercepted, or banned for certain reasons.  These justifications could be: (i) protecting the state’s security; (ii) amicable relations with foreign nations; (iii) maintaining public order, or (iv) preventing the encouragement of offenses.  Similar reasons may be used to cease telecom services (e.g., internet shutdown). 

 

2.     Whether the Act should include process and safety measures Individuals’ fundamental rights are shielded from government actions by the process and protections.   This begs the question of whether they ought to be mentioned in the Act rather than being left to government-issued rules.  The Act lays forth specifics including (i) who can give instructions, (ii) how instructions are reviewed, and (iii) how long they are valid.

 

3.     Whether or not an impartial supervision body is required for interception When someone is aware of a violation of their fundamental rights, they may file a legal challenge against the offending party.   These situations could involve any infringement on one of the following: (i) the right to life and liberty through an unlawful arrest; (ii) the right to freedom of speech and expression through the internet being suspended or user-generated content being blocked

 

4.     The Act might permit widespread surveillance, which could go against people’s fundamental right to privacy. According to the Act, any message or group of messages sent or received by two or more people on any given topic could be monitored, blocked, or intercepted.  The central government will specify procedures and safeguards for these acts.

 

5.     Not defined safeguards for the authority to search and seize The Act permits any officer designated by the federal government to conduct a vehicle or site search under certain conditions.  The equipment or network in question may also be taken by the officer.  The Act does not outline the process or the measures to prevent such acts, nor does it stipulate that these measures will be required.
6.     The requirement for biometric authentication According to the Act, telecom service providers are required to utilize any valid biometric-based identification to confirm the identity of their subscribers.   This requirement might be out of scale and violate someone’s basic right to privacy.

 

7.     Internet-based services may be included in telecommunication services Any sign, signal, writing, text, image, sound, video, data stream, intelligence, or information communicated through telecommunication is considered a message under the Act.  As a result, telecommunication services can include a broad range of online services like calling, video conferencing, and messaging.

 

8.     Transfer of regulatory responsibilities

 

According to the Act, spectrum allocation and authorization for telecom-related operations shall be handled by the federal government.  Central government secretaries will investigate and hear complaints about violations of authorization.  The central government will thus carry out a number of regulatory tasks.

 

CONCLUSION
Recognize the dynamic nature of the telecommunications industry and the act’s provisions that allow for security, surveillance, monitoring to technological advancements. This act ensures that regulatory frameworks remain relevant and supportive of emerging technologies, but issues of the act need to be addressed so that the basic structure which is preserving the democracy and fundamental rights of the citizens should be taken care of.

Source: https://prsindia.org/billtrack/the-telecommunication-bill-2023