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To be or not to be: Amending BD telecom law

Born in 2001 with limited regulatory independence, the amended telecom law had further clipped the wings of BTRC in 2010. The regulator has always been the ministry’s obedient servant. Therefore, the hijacking of BTRC’s minimal jurisdictions made no difference with the minister’s authority.

It, however, gives babus the pleasure of issuing licenses, approving tariffs and other issues to micro-manage. Predictably the ministry has miserably failed to discharge the duties it had hijacked from BTRC. Now it upsets the BTRC’s chairman, who was top civil servant at telecom ministry in 2010.

According to the telecom act, the government may take 60 days to approve a tariff, but the timeframe should not cross seven days, Bose said. “Sometimes, a package may even last for just a day or seven, so decisions should be taken rapidly.”

In the last three years, the ministry had given the task of approving tariffs to the regulator even though it was the ministry’s duty to do so. However, in the last couple of months, the ministry has not been giving this duty to the regulator.

An operator sends around 800 letters a year to the BTRC related to regulations or services, which are sent to the ministry for approval, according to industry insiders. It takes around 35 to 40 days to get approval for a tariff, which erodes competitiveness of operators, they added.

Telecom ministry and BTRC are littered with inept and unscrupulous babus. And Mr. Bose historically lacks the appetite for public consultation. Therefore, it remains unclear if the proposed amendment is intended for public interest or vested interest. Especially when the bureaucracy, instead of people’s leadership, is keen for regulatory reform.

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