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August 11, 1999
Sodhi laments sidetracking of telecom policyTelecom experts have called for protecting consumer interests as the controversy over migration from fixed licence fee to revenue sharing formula rages on in political and legal circles.
Justice S S Sodhi, chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has said telecom is too vital a sector for overall economic development of the country to be allowed to become hostage to politics of the ballot box, as it appears to have become.
The burden of the charge upon an operator, whatever it may be, whether by way of licence fee or sharing of revenue, eventually falls upon the consumer, he said.
''This is what confronts the nation with the choice: is the objective to generate revenue or promote affordability,'' Justice Sodhi said. If charges are kept within affordable limits, will it not result in expansion of the network that in turn could bring in greater revenues than high charges upon operators, which would rather impede expansion?
Justice Sodhi said telecom related services are vital inputs for trade and industry. Their costs cannot but have their effect upon India's global competitiveness. This is an aspect that does not appear to have received the consideration it deserves, he said.
He was addressing delegates gathered in New Delhi last evening for release of a book titled Telecom de-monopolisation in India by Dr T H Choudhary, information technology advisor to the Andhra Pradesh government and director of the Centre for Telecom Management and Studies in Hyderabad.
Choudhary said all reforms in the telecom sector must maximise consumer benefit and choice, both by immediate application of the latest technology so as to result in reduction of prices and increased availability of services and benefits accruing to customers due to convergence of technologies which are extinguishing the distinction between wired and wireless telephony, Internet and broadcasting.
He said private telecom companies have not been able to roll out their services in the timeframe envisaged because their financial resources were diverted to paying the licence fees. The expected choice for the customers has not materialised.
''It is therefore rightly recommended under the National Telecom Policy 1999 that the high licence fee regime by substituted by one-time entry fee and revenue sharing,'' said Choudhary who is also president of the Telecom Users Group of India.
''It is regrettable that the so long overdue implementation of the correct decision is now being obstructed by various sources who seem to be forgetting consumer interest.''
He said the TUGI calls upon all political parties and government departments to view the telecom reforms from the supreme criterion of consumer welfare, affordability, rapid extension and high capital inflows from all quarters so that the country's aspiration to become an information technology superpower can be realised speedily.
''It is important to realise that market forces are fast undermining the legacy systems,'' Choudhary said.
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