Department of Telecommunications – Relaxed Regulations for Work from Home

In the wake of recent COVID-19 related developments across the globe, the Department of Telecommunications (“DoT”) has issued Circular No. 18-5/2015-CS-I (Pt.) dated March 13, 2020 , relaxing certain terms and conditions relating to ‘Work from Home’ (“WFH”) for registered ‘Other Service Providers’ (“OSPs”) for a temporary period.

According to the Circular:

  1. The requirement of seeking prior permission for WFH has been exempted. OSPs are required to give prior intimation to the jurisdictional DoT office before implementing WFH, along with certain details;
  2. The requirement of signing a separate WFH Agreement and furnishing Security Deposit for WFH registration has been temporarily suspended;
  3. OSP’s have been permitted to use secured VPN configuration using ‘Static IP’ by themselves for interconnection between the employee at home and the OSP centre;
  4. These exemptions are effective till April 30, 2020.

Any violations of the WFH facility by an agent or employee of the OSP during the exemption period will leave the OSP liable for a penalty of INR 5,00,000 per location.

This is a welcome move, indicative of regulatory awareness of the on-ground challenges posed by the pandemic. In the days and weeks to come, the DoT will need to increase its vigilance, especially to ensure uninterrupted high-speed internet services across the country.

In that context, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has written to the government requesting the issue of directions to direct video streaming services (Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon) etc., asking such services to reduce their streaming quality. This is to prevent or minimize strain on network infrastructure. This is not an unusual ask – Netflix has, in the European Union, reduced its streaming quality in an effort to ease network congestion.

As large swathes of India’s laptop-toting population shifts to WFH, the decision taken in this regard will be of enormous importance and impact.