Govt mulls handing penalising powers to TRAI

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SibalNEW DELHI, August 2;Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal on Friday said the government is mulling taking away powers to penalise service providers for failing to comply with rules and regulations, from the Department of Telecom (DoT) and giving this authority to sectoral regulator TRAI.

“It has been around two and half years about excessive penalty that the department has been imposing on operators. I have wanted to change their mindset, but unfortunately it hasn’t. May be the best way forward is to go give that power to TRAI,” Mr. Sibal said on sidelines of a CII event.

DoT officials, under fear of allegation of their conniving with telecom operators for lowering penalty, directly impose the maximum penalty of Rs. 50 crore on service providers.

While TRAI has the power to regulate and monitor rates, quality and other parameters of telecom and broadcasting services to protect consumer interest, it does not have the power to impose penalties on service providers for failing to adhere to rules.

The Minister added that it is in progress and government is yet to take a final call on it.

According to industry estimates, telecom service providers are facing penalty to the tune of Rs. 6,500 crore. Of this, Rs. 1,900 crore has been imposed with regards to EMF (radiation) issues.

Stating that some times there is lack of uniformity on the penalties levied, specially in cases of radiation, Telecom Secretary M F Farooqui said “There is a need to have some proportionality, so that penalty levied in some way is related to seriousness of the violation of the licence condition and not seen by anyone as means to raise revenue.”

Meanwhile, the secretary added that the guidelines for ‘Unified Licences’ will be out in a few days time.

“UL is something which we should be coming out with in a day or two that would be another step forward in giving required flexibility completely. It would allow flexibility to those who are taking liberalised spectrum, to use that spectrum for any technology that comes up,” he said.

Further, the minister said specifications of next version of low-cost tablet Aakash have been finalised and is likely to be available by January 2014.

“Yesterday we had a meeting on the Aakash tablet. The generation 4 Aakash is ready, all the specifications are frozen,” Mr. Sibal said.

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