According to draught bill, phone and messaging apps like WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, Facebook Messenger, Microsoft Teams, Telegram, and Google Duo might soon need licences to function within India.
Declaration by Union Minister
According to Ashwini Vaishnaw, Union Minister, the government intends to enact “Light Touch” rules for Over the Top (OTT) platforms via the Telecom Bill. Additionally, he stated that the changes would give subscribers relief from unwanted messages and calls.
The Union Minister of Communications, Railways and Information Technology stated during a news conference that the measure will serve as a means of user protection.
Mr. Vaishnaw added that the regulation should, if possible, include highly efficient measures for achieving the goal. Wherever necessary, we must enact severe, effective laws; nevertheless, everywhere else, the rules will be straightforward and light-handed, putting everyone at ease. This legislation will serve to protect users.
The Union Minister added that the draught telecom bill is presently being discussed with all interested parties, and noted that the consultation results would be used to create the final document.
Applications needing licences
He stated that applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Signal, and Telegram will be governed by the Telecom Bill. The term telecom services in the proposed bill also includes over-the-top (OTT) and communication services.
Based on the draught bill, phone and messaging apps like WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, Facebook Messenger, Microsoft Teams, Telegram, and Google Duo may soon need licences to function in India.
The Union Minister stated that after the measure is passed, they anticipate a decrease in cyberfrauds.
What did the Union Minister say?
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.”
The minister added the following while discussing calls made using platforms other than Skype and WhatsApp: “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 into the Act (new bill).”
Benefit of Protection
Users of mobile phones may benefit from this action by being protected from spam calls but also fraudulent communications.
Minister stated that before this bill becomes law, at least 6–10 months will pass. Following the consultation phase, we will draught the final version. After that, it will be sent to the Parliament for review and approval. After it becomes legislation, a decrease in cyber fraud is anticipated.
According to the Union Minister, telecom is the gateway to Digital India and will aid in advancing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal step by step.
Statements made in regards to the bill
“Telecom is the entry point of digital India. After that comes data protection. Followed by the Digital India Act. We have to take the vision of the 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.
Further, Mr. Vaishnaw stated that all of the current laws, restrictions, exemptions, etc. would continue, based on the draught bill. No retroactive changes to the terms and conditions will be made, and all currently held licences, registrations, as well as spectrum would remain in effect.
Mr Vaishnaw stated in his presentation, “Currently India has three laws. Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1932 and Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950. These laws require change now as technology has changed considerably and needs a modern law. We need a specific legal framework for Spectrum, Right of Way, Insolvency, etc.”
According to the Union Minister, the law includes KYC and DND regulations and will enable wireless equipment without a licence.
KYC and DND
Mr. Vaishnaw explained that this proposed law includes requirements for Know Your Customers (KYC), security from unsolicited messages, and Do Not Disturb (DND) registers. To avoid fraud, it renders the caller’s identity accessible to the recipient, while it is the user’s responsibility to provide accurate KYC information.
“According to the draft bill, wireless equipment no longer requires a 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.
According to the Union Minister, the government is implementing “Spectrum Reforms” via the bill, that aims to make the best use of the 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 the 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 the seriousness of the offence,” the Union Minister further said.