Convergence Bill Likely This Session

New Delhi: | Updated: Jul 26 2002, 05:30am hrs
The recommendations of the Standing Committee on Information Technology on the Convergence Bill may make it to parliament in the current session itself.

The recommendations of the Committee, which is headed by Somnath Chatterjee, are scheduled to be finalised by August 8. “A two-day meeting is scheduled on August 7-8 to finalise the recommendations,” sources close to the committee told eFE.

It may be recalled that to expedite work on the convergence bill, the standing committee had set up a sub-committee headed by Pawan Kumar Bansal. It was entrusted with the task of undertaking clause-by-clause consideration of the convergence bill. Prior to the meeting of the Standing Committee, the sub-committee will add the final touches to the recommendations. “A meeting of the sub-committee is scheduled on July 31-August 1 for this purpose,” they said. The sub-committee will take up amendments suggested by the new members of the committee.

Parliamentarians who are members of the sub-committee include Bhartruhari Mahtab, Balbir K Punj, K Rama Mohana Rao and Kartar Singh Duggal.

The Convergence Bill takes cognisance of the convergence of voice and data (telecom, broadcasting and Internet) and seeks to set up a single super regulator — Communications Commission for India — for these sectors. The current Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is proposed to be subsumed into the super regulator.

Committee members are believed to have suggested significant amendments to the bill to ensure that the proposed Communications Commission is independent and autonomous and its work is not impacted by “the hidden hand of the government.”

The bill also seeks to change the licensing regime and limit the number of licence categories to five — network infrastructure facilities, networking services, network application services, content application services and valued added network application services. However, it is still not clear how the existing licencees will be accommodated in the new regime.

The Convergence Bill is proposed to “promote, facilitate and develop in an orderly manner the carriage and content of communications (including broadcasting, telecommunications and multimedia), for the establishment of an autonomous commission to regulate carriage of all forms of communications, and for establishment of an Appellate Tribunal.”