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National Telecom Policy and its implementation: Part 2
Vinod Anand | 30 Nov 2011

Due to the structural unavailability, DOT has not been established by private companies even after 30 months of Government decision because of many factors such as practicality and attitudinal problems.

VALUE ADDED services have however not been established by private companies even after 30 months of Government decision because the DOT has been structurally unable, attitudinally unwilling and practically adversarial to let private enterprise establish itself in the network and services sector.
 
Unless political leadership, that is the Minister, decisively and unhesitatingly implements the NTP, private sector presence in the basic telephone services will be even more delayed and almost made impossible.

We should note that a non- telecom person had to be placed at the head of the Telecom Commission because the technical bureaucracy was dead-set against reforms and demonopolisation. The internal opposition from officers and workers still continues (as it was in all countries) and is sometimes encouraged by reported reservations at higher level. We should hope that the resolve of the Government to persist in and extend liberalization would brook no ‘go-slow’ or obfuscations of telecom sector reforms. We shall see what are the implications of the NTP and how they should be addressed.

In 1989 National Telecom Policy had announced A Policy Framework What Government Policy Should Be’ It was endorsed in the main by the Institution of Electronics and Telecom Engineers (IETE) in 1992. The NTP contains all the important elements proposed in 1 989 but is wanting in specifics, which unless thought through and implemented, could reduce it to another piece of paper. However lofty and well crafted a policy may be, it is in implementation that we have to show knowledge, understanding, fairness, pro-activity, promotion and wisdom. In the following paragraphs, I have spelt out some of the crucial issues and how they can be addressed.

They are the result of my over thirty years’ involvement in communications, study of reforms and experiences in over twenty countries and my over ten-year long advocacy of reforms in the telecom regime in India. Besides these implementation issues, we will have the telecom workers, officers, their unions and affiliations and importantly, the ideologically inspired political parties. The Nation consists of all but not merely, privileged, entrenched, vested interest groups. Consultation, transparent sincerity, non-injury to the incumbent, consumer good and National interest should steer us clear of calamities and confrontations. The issues and possible answers are listed below.

Implementation Issues: An independent Telecom Regulatory Body:

This is elementary ethics and fair play. How can one of the service providers be a licensor and arbitrator of its rivals’ Even if there is no direct rivalry, (as for example between radio pager and cellular mobile radio companies on the one hand and the DOT on the other) DOT cannot be humanly fair because it was deprived of the opportunity to provide those services. No service provider can be a regulator, a player and an umpire. It would distort everything. For example, the DOT prescribed quality of service parameters and penalties for default on the cellular mobile and other new services licensees. DOT itself has not set any enforceable quality of service parameters.

This is unbashed abuse of monopoly power and colourable and unethical exercise of government power. It is to avoid this miscarriage of justice and violation of ethics that the European Community Countries have under E.C. directives, by law, separated regulatory functions from service provision functions. We too must have a separate Regulatory Body.

Its main functions would be to determine the field, pace and extent of competition; lay down public service obligations like rural and public telephones, interface standards for terminals and inter-connecting networks, price-capping and relating prices to quality of services, laying customer-grievance redressal procedures, allotment of radio-frequency and telephone number blocks for different service providers, evaluating the capabilities of contending license-seekers and recommending the most appropriate enterprise to the Government ensuring adequate, timely and efficient interconnection of different providers, networks at appropriate points and arbitrating upon disputes between the service providers and providers and customers.