Central Government Gains Control Over Telecom Services in Emergencies with New Telecommunications Act 2023
Central Government Gains Control Over Telecom Services in Emergencies with New Telecommunications Act 2023
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New Delhi: The Central Government will have the authority to control any telecommunications services or networks during emergencies with the implementation of the Telecommunications Act 2023, effective June 26.

On Friday, the Centre partially notified the Telecommunications Act, designating June 26 as the date for the enforcement of several sections, including sections 1, 2, 10, and 30. "The Central Government hereby appoints the 26th day of June 2024, as the date on which the provisions of sections 1, 2, 10 to 30, 42 to 44, 46, 47, 50 to 58, 61 and 62 of the said Act shall come into force," stated the Gazette notification.

The notification specifies that the government can take control of telecom services for reasons of security, public order, or prevention of offences. Section 20, effective June 26, states, "On the occurrence of any public emergency, including disaster management, or in the interest of public safety, the Central Government or a State Government or any officer specially authorised in this behalf by the Central Government or a State Government can take temporary possession of any telecommunication service or telecommunication network from an authorised entity; or provide for appropriate mechanisms to ensure that messages of a user or group of users authorised for response and recovery during a public emergency are routed on priority."

The act mandates that any telecom operator wishing to establish or operate telecommunication networks, provide services, or possess radio equipment must obtain authorization from the government.

With the new rules, the Universal Service Obligation Fund will be renamed Digital Bharat Nidhi. This fund will be used not only for supporting telecom services in rural areas but also for funding research and development and pilot projects.

Other sections of the act, including those related to the administrative allocation of spectrum (such as for satellite services) and adjudication mechanisms, will be notified at a later date. Once fully in effect, the Telecommunications Act 2023 will supersede the existing regulations under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, among others.

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