Finding itself at crossroads on complex policy matters, the department of telecommunications (DoT) has decided to refer all matters to the Parliamentary standing committee. The decision comes in the wake of the telecom regulator’s recommendations on spectrum auction, a Presidential Reference filed before the Supreme Court and after all other telecom policy matters in the works were disrupted by the Supreme Court’s cancelation of 122 telecom licences in February.
An internal note of the department explicitly highlights the situation, “It has become very difficult to find out/conclude the decision taken by the government and hence their further conveying to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and various wings of DoT. As the matter is of very complex, sensitive, urgent and important nature where various decisions /recommendations/court judgments are interlinked and impact each other, it may be for consideration that the matter may be referred to the standing committee which may inform the final paragraph-wise decision of the government indicating the name of the concern wings of DoT/Trai for taking necessary action which may be conveyed to Trai/ various wings of DoT after approval of the competent authority”.
The note prepared by the access services division of the DoT shows how the department is finding it increasingly difficult to steer any policy making owing to various overlapping and at times conflicting directives from all sides.
While the SC has extended the four month deadline for canceling the telecom licences to August 31, the department on the other hand has made it clear that it will not be able to conduct the spectrum auction of the canceled licences before a year. Secondly, the telecom regulator which in the past staunchly opposed auctioning of 2G spectrum has now suddenly recommended a reserve price, which is 10 times the entry fee charged by A. Raja and has suo moto recommended the model and procedure for auctioning all other spectrums.
However, the telecom commission had meanwhile decided to refer the matter of auctioning 2G spectrum and charging prospectively as well as retrospectively to the Cabinet but the SC’s judgment and the regulator’s new recommendations had thrown it into a tizzy.