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With an aim to resolve a long-pending issue being faced by the telecom industry, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has issued Right of Way (RoW) rules for rollout of communication networks to facilitate the installation of mobile towers, optic fibre and copper cables in a time-bound, non-discretionary manner.
According to the government notification, the authorities involved in granting permits to companies wanting to gain RoW access, will have to do so within 60 days of the application, failing which the approval “shall be deemed to have been granted”.
“This step will help the telecom sector to lay fibre and install towers in all parts of the country with ease, thereby quickly rolling out mobile broadband for all…,” said P Balaji, chairman of ASSOCHAM’s National Council on Telecommunication and Convergence. Apart from the concern around delay in approvals for RoW permits, one of the other major issues flagged by telecom companies was the fees charged by local bodies for these permissions. In some cases, the charges have been as high as Rs 7 crore per kilometre for laying underground cables.
To keep a check on these levies by various agencies on network rollout, authorities have been barred from imposing any fee, charge, lease rental, licence fee other than the expense that they would incur as consequence of the proposed work. Every application under the rule “shall be accompanied with such fee to meet administrative expenses for examination of the application and the proposed work as the appropriate authority may, by general order, deem fit”, the notification said. Such fee to meet administrative expenses “shall not exceed one thousand rupees per kilometre”, it added.
However, the government has made provisions that local agencies may impose cost of restoring damage to any infrastructure as a result of laying cable.
“Much of the call drop difficulties have been due to the inability to get the adequate number of correctly-located towers due to lack of proper rules to guide the competent authorities. This need has now been addressed by the government through this clear notification,” said TV Ramachandran, president, Broadband India Forum.
“This could lead to a significant reduction in the call drop problem as well due to increase in number of mobile towers and cell sites leading to better coverage along with implementation of fibre connectivity to help boost the broadband services,” he added.