The Hindu Editorial Vocabulary– December 20, 2023; Day 515
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Difficult Word/ PhraseContextual Sense
Consolidate Bring together into a single whole or system
Digitise Put into digital form, as for use in a computer
Tout Advertise in strongly positive terms
Streamline to make an organization, process, etc. work better by making it simpler
Landscape An extensive mental viewpoint
Expansive Of behaviour that is impressive and ambitious in scale or scope
Ambit An area in which something acts or operates or has power or control
Snoop Watch, observe, or inquire secretly
Contentious Involving or likely to cause controversy
Scrutiny The act of examining something closely (as for mistakes)
Scrupulously Being extremely honest
Subordinate Lower in rank or importance

Incoming call: On the introduction of the Telecommunications Bill, 2023

Regulation of Internet world must address privacy concerns and simplify procedures 

The introduction of the Telecommunications Bill, 2023, inches closer to achieving the Union government’s long-standing aim of consolidating (Bring together into a single whole or system) the law for wireless networks and Internet service providers, with a 46-page statute that leaves existing regulatory structures largely intact, while simplifying bureaucratic procedures such as applying for licences and permits for telecom operators. Licensing processes are set to be digitised (Put into digital form, as for use in a computer), and telecom operators will have a new way of dealing with non-compliance with their licence terms, while also having access to district- and State-level authorities for permissions and dispute resolution when setting up their equipment and optical fiber networks on public and private properties. The Bill also lets the satellite Internet industry — long touted (Advertise in strongly positive terms) as a way for at least some remote areas to get net connectivity — breathe a sigh of relief, as there is clarity that it will not need to bid for spectrum, thus putting India on similar footing with other countries. The Bill has been welcomed by industry bodies for streamlining (to make an organization, process, etc. work better by making it simpler) their regulatory landscape (An extensive mental viewpoint) and promoting their ease of doing business, and could possibly give the much-needed regulatory stability and enabling environment for the next phase of telecom expansion. Over half of India’s population is on the margins of the connected world, and the Bill could help.

But issues persist: the expansive (Of behaviour that is impressive and ambitious in scale or scope) definition of telecom brings in its ambit (An area in which something acts or operates or has power or control) a range of services, and state authority over them raises concerns of privacy and surveillance. These concerns are not merely academic considering past allegations of state-sponsored snooping (Watch, observe, or inquire secretly). The Bill tries to deal with spamming concerns, but its proposed solutions require additional compromises to privacy. The issues of surveillance reform and Internet shutdowns have massive implications, and must not be avoided just because they are contentious (Involving or likely to cause controversy). The government must address these concerns with an open mind, considering the vast powers that the text of the Bill grants it. When the last draft was publicly floated for consultation, responses from industry bodies and the public were withheld from scrutiny (The act of examining something closely (as for mistakes)). To further reassure the public of its clean motives, the government must scrupulously (being extremely honest) conduct rule-making with absolute transparency and consultation. This is especially important as many of the Act’s provisions need subordinate (Lower in rank or importance) legislation notified by the Department of Telecommunications before they come into force. The telecommunications landscape has evolved dramatically since the Telegraph Act was first passed in the 19th century, and regulation and law-making of the Internet world need to comprehensively address all the issues that have come with this digital explosion.

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