Separate Broadcasting Policy, use last mile operator for broadband spread: TDSAT seminar

NEW DELHI: There should be a separate Broadcasting Policy analogous to the National Telecom Policy, and the existing laws and regulations should be enforced more stringently before drafting new ones.

This was one of the recommendations on regulatory issues in broadcasting and distribution sector at a seminar by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) held early this year.

The last mile cable network should be leveraged to provide broadband services, according to the recommendations placed on the website of TDSAT yesterday.

A general consensus also said the government needs to ensure that the amendments in existing regulations do not lead to confusion and ambiguity with regard to the original objectives of the legislations.

A more effective consultation process should be designed so that the stakeholders do not need to resort to the adjudicatory system, and there should be a more pro-active approach on the implementation of recommendations of the policy makers, the recommendations relating to broadcasting said.

The seminar on the ART (Adjudication, Regulation, Telecommunication) of Convergence on 6 and 7 February 2016 was attended by government, policy makers, adjudicatory body, and service providers to deliberate suggestions to prepare for challenges that arise with a converging digital environment.

The seminar was inaugurated by Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley, Supreme Court’s Justice J. Chelameswar presided over the function, and Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi was the guest of honour.

Jaitley stressed the need for an adjudicatory mechanism for telecommunications and broadcasting which is agile and responsive to deal with emerging challenges.

The seminar was held with the support of Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Department of Telecommunications and Information Technology (DeitY), Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Justices from the Supreme Court and High Court, and representatives of the industry. Ernst and Young was the knowledge partner for the seminar.

Regulatory and Licensing Regime in a converged environment

The conclusion was the need to frame a simplified, resilient and comprehensive convergence law and regulation encompassing all activities and sections of the industry, which are currently governed by myriad laws and regulations.

Separate mechanisms are needed for content and carriage regulation, with independent bodies for each of them. There needs to be converged licensing regime for telecommunications and broadcasting.

It was also stated that there needs to be a clear and well-defined separation of regulatory and adjudicatory powers, with the adjudicatory powers vested in an independent authority. Strategic spectrum should be under the control of the government, while the commercial spectrum should be under the control of the regulator.

The governance mechanism should be digitized and the processes should be made simpler to use. The existing laws should be amended keeping in mind their compatibility with other regulations and processes. Legislations should be made technology agnostic to provide a level playing field for all the stakeholders.

Adjudicatory mechanism — issues and way forward

It was stated that the law needs to be amended to bring more clarity regarding jurisdictional powers of TDSAT mandated in the TRAI Act apropos writ jurisdiction of the High Courts.

A separate mediation centre is required for resolving minor cases, both pre-trial as well as post-trial, which do not require the specialized expertise of the judges of the Supreme Court.

The original character of the TDSAT needs to be restored; in addition whether certain types of disputes should be entrusted to TRAI for resolution in order to improve the efficacy of the overall adjudicatory mechanism.

There should be a fully integrated electronic tribunal and innovative technologies should be used to deal with cases rapidly and efficiently, the recommendations said.

Training should be provided to all the stakeholders in the sector to eliminate the digital divide. Regulations need to be updated in accordance with the changing technology.

Content distribution in next generation networks

There should be clear, defined and uniform regulations for broadband, net neutrality, advertising, patents, and competition and pricing matters.

There was unanimity that net neutrality should be ensured to safeguard the interest of all stakeholders in the internet ecosystem.

A suitable patents and copyright system should be developed for India keeping in mind the specific concerns of the domestic industry.

It was felt that the industry should not be over-regulated as this would dis-incentivize stakeholders and hamper the interests of both the content creators and the consumers.

The behaviour of the stakeholders in the industry should be regulated instead of the economics of the industry, since regulation of the latter destroys business models while the former adds to both the consumers’ and the industry’s welfare.

“I-way of the Future”

It was felt that the challenge of slow implementation should be overcome through enhanced co-ordination among the stakeholders and the policy makers.

A broadband highway needs to be built that ensures accessibility of high speed internet for everyone.

Cyber security and privacy issues that arise due to the cross sector convergence and have standardized legislations for dealing with it needs to be addressed.

A pro-active approach needs to be followed in policy making to speed up the creation and adoption of the next generation highway infrastructure.

There should be a conducive business environment through policies that incentivize entrepreneurs and private participation. The expertise of the private sector should be leveraged. Start-ups needs to be encouraged to develop their capabilities and help build a compact, connected and coordinated network of smart cities.

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