bill: the Ministry of Telecommunications will include contribution exemption provisions in the telecommunications bill

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is set to incorporate provisions into the upcoming telecommunications bill that would allow it to waive statutory dues and penalties. The waiver will likely benefit small internet or telecommunications companies that owe the department small amounts of money, officials familiar with the matter said.

Such an enabling provision could also allow the DoT to waive certain dues from larger telecom operators like Vodafone Idea (Vi) or Bharti Airtel. However, the officials clarified that if the amount involved is significant and of a statutory nature, Cabinet approval would be required. The DoT has significant claims in the form of One Time Spectrum Fee (OTSC), Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) and the ₹3,050 crore penalty on Vi and Airtel. Currently, hundreds of smaller Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and domestic and international long distance licensees have low dues and have not made statutory payments.

While some of them have disputed DoT requests, others are no longer operational.

“A waiver provision would allow the DoT to close many such cases,” said an official who did not wish to be named because the final version of the telecommunications bill has yet to be finalized.

Previously, the DoT waived small amounts if payments were not made for three to four years, but after the licensing regime came into effect, there was no provision in the license terms for a waiver. , added the official. “We are basically rectifying the problem. Such a provision is necessary for the ease of doing business,” the official stressed.

Also, the waiver provision would allow the DoT to close cases that are 15 to 20 years old, the official said, adding that it would not result in losses to the treasury as the amounts are very small and without any chance. recovery.

In the past, the DoT has raised various erroneous claims against ISPs and other licensees, and those claims must be lifted, an industry executive said.

The ministry is working on a forward-looking telecommunications bill that would address sectoral issues arising from the advent of new technologies. Union Minister for Communications Ashwini Vaishnaw recently said that the project would soon go out for public consultation.

At present, the telecommunications sector is mainly governed by the Telegraph Act and the Wireless Telegraphy Act.

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