Stringent law for telcos passed
The parliament yesterday passed a bill making the provisions of telecom law tough to punish telecom operators and other ICT-based companies for specific wrongdoings with an increase of fine up to Tk 300 crore from Tk 10 lakh.
During passage of the bill, the House also accepted a recommendation made by the parliamentary standing committee on post and telecommunications for formation of a three-member appeal board led by a retired High Court judge.
Doing business without obtaining licence, doing other types of telecom business violating the licensing conditions, working against national sovereignty by using telecom equipments will be considered as offences punishable with the maximum fine and imprisonment up to 10 years or both, according to the bill.
But according to the provision, telecom operators and ICT-based companies can file appeal only against fines imposed by Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), but not against any other action by the government or the telecom regulator.
With the passage of the bill, BTRC's exclusive jurisdiction over issuing licences and fixing tariffs was curtailed as it empowered the government with sweeping authority to decide on those.
From now on, BTRC will have to take prior permission from the government to issue licences and fixing tariffs.
Post and Telecommunications Minister Raziuddin Ahmed Razu yesterday proposed passage of the bill in line with the recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee on the ministry concerned.
He placed the bill in parliament on June 13 to amend the Bangladesh Telecommunication Act 2001 to punish telecom operators for wrongdoings without giving them scope for challenging the regulator's decision.
Amid heightened concern of telecom operators, the parliamentary body while scrutinising the bill recommended inclusion of a provision for constitution of the appeal board.
The amendment to the telecom act will also pave the way for opening the VoIP (voice over internet protocol) business bringing it under a legal framework.
The bill, passed amid absence of the main opposition BNP, also has a provision for raising a "Social Obligation Fund" for expansion of telecom network in remote areas.
In defence of the amendments to the telecom law, the post and telecommunications minister said the amendments are required to materialise the vision of a "digital Bangladesh".
In a brief statement tagged with a copy of the bill, he said the bill contains a provision for legalising VoIP business and issuing VoIP call termination operator licences to generate employment.