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Telecom department unveils Right of Way rules to ease telecom infra roll outs

21 Jun 2013
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The telecom department on Friday issued new rules for the setting up of telecom towers and laying of cables, problems over which have often pitted municipal bodies and public against the industry.

The right of way (RoW ) rules, which come into effect on November 15, provide for a framework to give approvals and settle disputes in a time-bound manner, as well as improve coordination between companies and government authorities. These also allow online filing of applications, in a bid to ease the pain that the sector faces in building infrastructure.

"It is a great move to assist the industry with improving the quality of service experience of customers," said Rajan Matthews , director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India which represents carriers such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular. "This will provide a great fillip to expanding cell site coverage as well as fibre implementation to support broadband services."

Inadequate infrastructure is blamed for call drops and creating roadblocks to broadband penetration. But fear of radiation has led many people and municipal bodies to oppose setting up of towers in their localities. There are also problems over laying of cables that often requires digging up of roads and private property.

The new rules under the Indian Telegraph Act state that local and state authorities would have to appoint nodal officers for implementing the rules, in order to improve coordination between companies and authorities.

“State government may at its discretion establish a single electronic application process for all appropriate authorities under its control,” the telecom department said.

Service providers or tower companies would have to pay a one-time fee of Rs 10,000 with its application, for meeting administrative expenses. Companies that lay fibre will have to pay Rs 1,000 per kilometre.

For removing or altering a tower or underground fibre on the request of a local authority, companies would have to submit a plan within 30 days and bear the entire cost. A minimum of 90 days will be granted for the removal or change to be done.

In order to resolve disputes on right of way, the central government will have to designate officers with jurisdiction for referring a dispute, within 60 days.

The rules are expected to help companies get land from state governments and local bodies within a stipulated timeframe, as they set standard procedures for telecom companies and government authorities to follow.

For setting up fibre that is underground, the authority may seek a bank guarantee for an amount in lieu of expenses for restoration of damage, as security from the telco. Local authority can forfeit the bank guarantee if it finds that a licensee has willfully violated terms and conditions.

For setting up towers, firms must give details of land required, along with the necessary approvals from the Central government.

Infrastructure providers will have to put in their applications in detail, including the tower or fibre to be set up, the time it will take and expenses that a local authority would have incur for the work done, besides measures to ensure public safety and reduce inconvenience.

On the other hand, an authority must not take more than 60 days from the date of application to either grant permission or deny it. It cannot reject an application without first hearing the company.

If the authority fails to give a response within 60 days, the permission will be deemed as granted.

Row: Telecom department unveils Right of Way rules to ease telecom infra roll outs - ET Telecom
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