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Convergence Bill 2001 has few takers

09-November-2001
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Convergence Bill 2001 has few takers

Initial depositions before the Parliamentary Standing committee on IT, headed by Somnath Chatterjee, suggest that there are few takers for the Communication Convergence Bill 2001 in its present form.

Aroon Purie, promoter of Living Media dubbed the Bill “restrictive” in nature and Manu Sawhney, head of ESPN India, representing the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), have said that this is “not the opportune time to have such an enabling and a restrictive legislation.”

The government-prepared compilation of the depositions made in October quotes CII representation as saying, “The feeling is that the proposed legislation is over regulating and disabling, rather than enabling.”

Pointing out that the licensing clauses lack clarity and simplicity, the CII has told the Parliamentary panel, “Given the ever-changing scenario that exists today, the omnibus control over the Commission (by the government) should be given up and laying down of conditions in respect of services should be left purely to the Commission.”

The government introduced the Communication Convergence Bill 2001 in Parliament during the monsoon session. The Bill, referred to the House standing committee on IT, envisages a regulatory framework for carriage and content of communications in the aftermath of convergence of telecom, broadcasting and IT.

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation, an apex body of broadcasting companies operating in India, has said although there are pockets within the broadcasting industry that do need regulation, clarity and transparency, "yet a bill of such kind is premature."

According to the representation made to the committee by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman MS Verma and others, the government should take into account tele-density, PC density, availability of level of education and local content, language diversity and access barriers "before embarking upon convergence."

TRAI members feel that matters of inter-connectivity and network character should be more clearly specified in the Bill as these are most vital for a level playing field.

Similarly, the Association of Basic Telecom Operators has opined that various definitions in the bill in the first instances are not clear and services like webcasting do not find a mention at all.

Pointing out that "instead of pushing through the bill there is a need to have some changes in it", the Internet Service Providers Association of India told the standing committee there should be a maximum of two licenses, one for infrastructure and the other for service providers. The bill in its present form envisages licences to be obtained in five different categories.

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