Draft National Digital Communications Policy 2018

Earlier this week, India’s department of telecommunications (DoT) released a draft new telecom policy, titled ‘Draft National Digital Communications Policy 2018’.

The three pillars of the draft policy are ‘Connect India’, ‘Propel India’ and ‘Secure India’, which primarily seek to improve broadband connectivity, accelerate development of next-generation technologies and services and institute measures for data sovereignty, security, and safety, respectively.

Several strategies have been devised under each pillar – few carry on from previous national telecom policies, and some are new proposals.

Key features:

Major goals: The policy has outlined goals such as providing broadband for all, creating 4 million additional jobs in the digital communications sector, apart from enhancing the contribution of the digital communications sector to 8% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) from less than 6% in 2017.

Data protection: In the wake of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytics data scandal, the government aims to now establish a comprehensive data protection regime for digital communications that safeguard the privacy, autonomy, and choice of individuals and facilitates India’s participation in the global digital economy.

National Broadband mission: The policy has announced goals such as the deployment of 5 million public Wi-Fi Hotspots by 2020 and 10 million by 2022 through a National Broadband Mission.

Fibre First Initiative: The policy aims to implement a ‘Fibre First Initiative’ to take fibre to the home by according telecom optic fibre cables the status of public utility.

Infrastructure convergence: The government also aims to enable infrastructure convergence of IT, telecom and broadcasting sectors by amending the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and other relevant acts for the purpose of convergence in coordination with respective ministries.

Boost to investments: In order to attract investments of $100 billion in the digital communications sector and increase India’s contribution to global value chains, the government will review levies and fees including license fee, universal service obligation fund (USOF) levy and concept of pass-through revenues in line with principles of input line credit apart from rationalising spectrum usage charges (SUCs) to reflect the costs of regulation and administration of spectrum.

Light touch licensing regime: The DoT will also establish light touch licensing regime for the proliferation of public data offices (PDOs) and Public Data Office Aggregators for providing internet access through Wi-Fi hotspots.

Renewable energy technologies: The Policy talks of incentivizing the use of renewable energy technologies in the communications sector, including utilization of small cell fuel batteries, lithium-ion batteries or other similar technologies.

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