TRAI reiterates need for converged regulatory regime for telecom & broadcasting services

TRAI cites example of FCC in US, OfCom in UK


MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) again highlighted the need for a converged regulatory regime for telecom and broadcasting services in India following the model of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in US and Office of Communications (OfCom) in the UK. 

As large scale changes in these two sectors are taking place due to convergence, the regulatory body opines that there is an urgent need for having a comprehensive regulatory framework to deal with various issues arising out of the convergence of technologies and services.

In reply to a letter by Rajyasabha MP Subhash Chandra regarding the need to have an independent regulator, TRAI has mentioned that there is no need for a separate regulator for broadcasting and cable sector addressing the ministry of communication.

“Large scale changes in the telecom and broadcasting sector are taking place due to convergence and without a converged regulatory framework any attempts to regulate the telecom and broadcasting sectors in coming times may result in bottlenecks, imperfect competition, disputes and opportunities for arbitrage. Thus, if one service can be provided by two different routes and the license fees of one is much lower, then the tendency would be to use this alternative. The regulatory regime has to be such that the consumers and service providers should benefit from the technological advances,” it added.

“The regime should not create any hindrance in the deployment of any technology for offering any type of telecom services including broadcasting services. At the same time due to technological developments, no service providers should be able to disturb the level playing field by taking advantage of regulatory policies. To achieve these objectives, it is necessary that licensing should be service neutral and the converged regulatory regime for telecom and broadcasting services should be in place. The organisational restructuring in view of technological developments is a must, otherwise, it may be difficult to exploit the full benefits of these technological developments,” the regulator highlighted. 

Notably, the government brought the broadcasting and cable television services within the ambit of telecommunication services for the first time in 2004. TRAI, in addition to the telecoms sector, had also been set up as the regulator for the media and broadcasting industry. TRAI mentioned in the letter that since then it has brought various reforms in the industry including digitisation, the new tariff order which has helped it to grow. “Looking at the role so far played by TRAI, it is obvious that there is no need for a separate regulator for broadcasting and cable sector,” it states. However, those reforms were most of the time challenged in various judicial forums by the stakeholders and the regulatory body has been blamed for “micro-managing” the sector.

Earlier in 2018, TRAI proposed a converged regulator for information and communications technology (ICT) and broadcast sectors but television broadcasters and broadcasting associations had opposed the proposal. 

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