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|March 27, 1999||
The controversy over fixing new tariffs by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has been resolved with the government today deciding not to increase telephone rentals or call charges for people living in rural areas and the lower income groups of urban areas.
However, it is not very clear immediately whether the government has reached a compromise with TRAI or it is unilaterally overruling the statutory authority.
Communications Minister Jagmohan told reporters the government is keen to help the weaker sections of the society, particularly those people residing in villages and those in the low-income groups in urban areas.
Jagmohan justified the changes made to the March 9 order of the TRAI by saying that the government wished to make telecom services affordable in the rural areas.
Now there will be no increase in rental or call charges payable by rural subscribers.
Similarly, he said, there would is no increase in call charges and decrease in free-call limit for the urban low income groups making calls up to 200 units per month.
The urban high calling subscribers, making more than 200 calls per month, will be allowed to retain the free call limit at the present level of 75 calls per month.
The TRAI had notified the free-call limit for them at 60 calls. The government has now disallowed this.
Jagmohan revealed that the TRAI has been asked to implement its order for the first year only and subsequently re-work the tariff rates in view of the developments following the announcement of the new telecom policy.
The date of implementation of the new telecom tariffs has been changed from April 1 to some later date.
The TRAI is to fix the new date such that it is not earlier than April 15. This is because some time is required to effect necessary changes in all the computerised exchanges spread all over the country, Jagmohan explained.
According to the changes announced by the government, the Department of Telecommunications and the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited as operators of service will have the tariff structure for basic services in urban and rural areas as follows:
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