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Sunday, June 16, 2019
DoT extends suspension of official Ashish Joshi for another six months

The telecom department is learnt to have extended suspension of Uttarakhand-based officer Ashish Joshi - who had written to Delhi Police to take action against a rebel AAP MLA for posting an 'incendiary' video online.

The telecom department is learnt to have extended suspension of Uttarakhand-based officer Ashish Joshi - who had written to Delhi Police to take action against a rebel AAP MLA for posting an 'incendiary' video online. "DoT has extended suspension of Ashish Joshi, former controller of communication accounts, for a period of 180 days beyond initial 180 days of suspension. No reason has been explained in the order copy," an official source told.

The extension order was issued on May 16 - 10 days after he had written to telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan seeking appointment.

The suspended official alleged that he is being targeted after he approached Sundararajan and former telecom minister Manoj Sinha on violation of transfer policyguidelines to favour some officers in his cadre and related Cabinet orders.

The Joshi's cadre is controlled by the Member (Finance) of Digital Communication Commission, formerly the Telecom Commission - apex decision making body at the Department of Telecom, the official source said.

E-mail sent to the department elicited no reply. Joshi did not respond to calls and sms in this regard.

Joshi was suspended on February 26 after he approached the police commissioner for action against rebel Aam Aadmi Party MLA Kapil Mishra for circulating a highly incendiary video, provoking people to attack "against traitors" on YouTube and Twitter in violation of the IT Act and Indian Penal Code.

Joshi on February 19 had also issued an order to telecom operators to crack down on offensive or obscene messages and set up a helpline to receive complaints against such customers.

The DoT has charged Joshi for misusing official letter head for filing a complaint against Mishra and also issuing orders to telecom operators on offensive messages with malafide intent without having any jurisdiction or making any advance preparation to address complaints that would come in response to the order.

"DoT has charged Joshi for misusing his personal twitter handle to threaten "general public" who were abusing him and his family after he was suspended," the source said.

Joshi was repatriated by the Delhi government to his parent cadre - telecom ministry, in May 2015, following a spar with political leadership. He had filed complaint with anti-corruption bureau in 2015 against then principal secretary of Delhi, Rajendra Kumar, based on which the Central Bureau of Investigation raided the Delhi secretariat in December 2015. (Source: ETTelecom)

Issues affecting YouTube, Gmail, Google Cloud in US resolved, says Google

Alphabet Inc's Google said on Sunday it had resolved a network congestion in the eastern United States that affected services in Google Cloud, G Suite and YouTube. Google said that it would conduct an investigation of the outage and make appropriate improvements to the company's systems to prevent or minimise future recurrence.

Earlier on Sunday, Google said it was experiencing high levels of congestion, adding that the incident began at 3:25 PM EDT. Google said it had identified the root cause, but did not elaborate.

Snapchat, which also experienced outages, said it was aware of the issue. DownDetector.com — an outage tracking website — showed that the number of Snapchat-related complaints had peaked at more than 48,000 before falling to about 1,800 as of 9 PM EDT on Sunday.

Snapchat's parent company, Snap Inc, said in its annual report it used Google Cloud, but neither company responded to questions about whether the Snapchat outage was linked to the Google Cloud issues.

During the outage, many users took to Twitter to complain about it under the hashtag #YouTubeDOWN.

“When Snapchat and YouTube are both down and you don't know where to go next #YouTubeDOWN #snapchatdown,” a user going by the name Jasmine tweeted. (Source: The Hindu Businessline)


Apple accused of selling iTunes customers’ data

Apple Inc was sued by customers who claim the company is unlawfully disclosing and selling information about people’s iTunes purchases as well as their personal data, contrary to the company’s promise in advertising that ‘What happens on your iPhone. stays on your iPhone’.

Three iTunes customers from Rhode Island and Michigan sued on Friday in federal court in San Francisco seeking to represent hundreds of thousands of residents of their home states who allegedly had their personal listening information disclosed without their consent.

“The disclosure of iTunes customers personal data is not only unlawful but can also be dangerous because it allows for targeting vulnerable members of society,” according to the complaint.

“For example, any person or entity could rent a list with the names and addresses of all unmarried, college-educated women over the age of 70 with a household income of over $80,000 who purchased country music from Apple via its iTunes Store mobile application,” the customers said. “Such a list is available for sale for approximately $136 per thousand customers listed.”

They seek $250 for each Rhode Island iTunes customer whose information was disclosed and $5,000 for each one in Michigan, under the states respective privacy laws.

Representatives of Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. (Source: The Hindu Businessline)

Telecom Department To Soon Settle Issues On Merger, Transfer Of Licences

For the Vodafone-Idea merger, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular paid the department a sum of Rs. 7,268 crore in July 2018. The Department of Telecommunications will settle all issues related to merger and transfer of licences in the sector on a priority basis, an internal note of the ministry said.

"In the last two years there has been consolidation in the telecom industry involving Vodafone-Idea, Bharti Airtel-Telenor, Bharti Airtel -Bharti Digital Networks Pvt Ltd, Bharti Airtel-Tata Teleservices and Bharti Airtel-Airtel Broadband services. All issues related to the merger/transfer of licences to be settled," said a note by the Department of Telecommunications on mergers and acquisitions (M&A), indicating these top its agenda over the next few months.

The note did not give further details as the roadmap on settling such issue would be worked out shortly. But the settlement is not likely to touch on the spectrum dues part which is already with the telecom tribunals. But all other glitches, which need to be ironed out at the department's end, will be looked at, sources said.

Out of all the listed M&As, the Vodafone-Idea, Airtel-Telenor and Airtel-Tata Teleservices combines have seen skirmishes between the department and the operators over the spectrum dues of previous licensee period prior to the merger. In the other three cases -- Airtel- Telenor, Airtel-Tata Teleservices and Vodafone-Idea, the matter has landed at the tribunal, TDSAT.

Recently, TDSAT partially stayed the Rs. 8,300-crore demand by DoT from Airtel for the Tata Tele merger and directed "the authorities concerned to take the merger of two companies and licence on record", subject to stay on one-time spectrum charges (OTSC) demand of around Rs. 7,000 crore. The department had earlier asked Airtel to submit a bank guarantee of around Rs. 7,000 crore and immediate payment of Rs. 1,287.97 crore before it takes merger of Airtel and Tata consumer mobile business (CMB) on record.

For the Vodafone-Idea merger, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular paid the department a sum of Rs. 7,268 crore in July 2018 that was sought as a key condition for approval. Out of this, Rs.3,926.34 crore was paid to the telecom department in cash and a bank guarantee of Rs.3,322.44 crore was also furnished, according to Idea Cellular.

In October 2018, the telecom company moved the telecom tribunal to recover bank guarantees worth Rs. 3,322.44 crore that was paid "under protest" to get the government's nod for the merger.

For Airtel-Telenor merger, the approval came within a week of Supreme Court order that quashed the DoT petition seeking security deposit of around Rs. 1,700 crore and directed it to clear the merger. The guarantee included Rs. 1,499 crore for one-time spectrum charge for the radiowaves allocated to Airtel without auction, and over Rs. 200 crore for spectrum payment which Telenor has to make.

While Telenor Airtel and Vodafone Idea mergers have happened, the Airtel-TTSL merger is pending. (Source:NDTV)

TRAI withdraws 2012 order on ‘Wangiri’ calls

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has withdrawn its earlier order on Wangiri calls, following an appeal by some of the service providers. The issues start with scammers hiring a premium-rate number from a telecom provider and giving missed calls to unsuspecting people. As the latter calls back, they pay a higher charge, and a part of the money goes to the scammer.

Such calls are termed as Wangiri, a Japanese word literally meaning “one (ring) and cut.

In its September 18, 2012, order, TRAI had directed telecom operators not to activate international long distance calling on pre-paid cards without taking the user’s explicit consent. The regulator had also told operators to take pre-paid users’ permission for ISD services within 60 days. Industry body COAI had approached the telecom tribunal seeking quashing of the TRAI order, citing revenue loss from genuine long-distance callers. In its latest direction, dated April 22, the regulator has decided withdraw its earlier order. The COAI has proposed a technical solution aimed to tackling the menace of such calls.

In India, where nearly 97 per cent of users are on pre-paid connections, international long distance facility provided as default.

While ministry sources confirmed the development, they also said the issue is currently before the TDSAT, and the tribunal has to take a final call.

TRAI had been getting complaints from users about calls and SMS from international numbers informing them about winning prizes or lotteries. The scamsters encourage consumers to call a premium tariff number, at times attracting charges as high as ₹200 a minute, to claim the prize.

Proposals given On January 4, the COAI, international long-distance operators, and Indian operators presented a set of proposals to address this. The industry was also to initiate further technical discussions on these proposals. Among the proposals were identifying country codes with substantially high termination rates but minuscule traffic, suspected as Wangiri. The operators wanted certain country codes to be included as ‘Restricted ISD category’. The COAI, in a letter to TRAI, said: “The app-based internet calling for international calls, and the product offering in the market having shifted to bundled voice and data for usage with specific need of talk-time for any international call, have already led to very little inclination or possibility of consumers responding to a Wangiri call.” “It is further submitted that our member-operators have implemented the PreCall Announcement (PCA) on the identified codes/countries to inform the subscribers regarding the higher charging. This has further reduced the chances of customers calling the Wangiri numbers,”the association added. (Source:The Hindu BusinessLine)

Visa case: Former US employee of Infosys files an appeal for review in California court

A former Infosys employee in the US, whose lawsuit against the company for alleged visa fraud was thrown out last month, has now filed a notice of appeal at the District Court of California. A notice of appeal is filed to review a case.

According to filings in courtlistener.com, a non-profit legal search engine, a federal court judge in San Jose in March left the door open for Carl Krawitt — who had filed the lawsuit — to submit an amended complaint if he wished to, after dismissing his case. Krawitt had alleged in his case that Infosys had conspired to bring in Indian employees on B-1 business visas as trainers for a six-week programme at Apple though, as per legal requirements, they could only be brought on H-1B visas, which are tougher to get.

An official statement from Infosys is awaited. The company has three days to counter the notice.

Krawitt, who earlier worked with Infosys as a contractor, is understood to have made the case as a whistleblower and on behalf of the federal government. The San Jose court dismissed the case under the False Claims Act. Earlier, the California court cleared Infosys and Apple of wrongdoing, saying a trainer’s work under B-1 visa was acceptable and that neither firm had attempted to commit a fraud.

Apple claimed that there was no case to establish that this was done with intent.

This allegation is similar to ones made in the past, most notably by Jay Palmer, another former employee who first blew the whistle on Infosys. Palmer had alleged visa-related abuses, which triggered a US Federal government investigation. Eventually, the case got dismissed by federal judge Myron H Thompson.

Visa denials
According to recent United States US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data, Infosys topped H-1B visa denials in FY18, ending September 2018, with more than 25 per cent of its 8,000-plus applications rejected.

Further, according to a CARE ratings report, the top five tech companies suffered a 49 per cent drop in H-1B petitions being approved in FY2018 compared to the previous fiscal. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

DPIIT examining comments on draft e-commerce policy

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has started analysing comments and suggestions received from stakeholders on the draft national e-commerce policy. Sources said the DPIIT does not intend to extend the deadline that ended on Friday for sending comments on the draft policy. Earlier, on the request of stakeholders, the department had extended the deadline from March 9 to March 29.

The process of formulation of the final policy may wait till the new government assumes charge as it requires approval of the Union cabinet.

Earlier this month, the department had held consultations with stakeholders on the policy, wherein participants had raised the demand for a separate policy on data-related issues.

The draft policy has laid out conditions for businesses regarding collection or processing of sensitive data locally and storing it abroad. Besides, it has suggested fixing a three-year period for the industry to adjust to the data storage requirement of the country with a view to developing infrastructure for promoting digital economy.

These proposal has not gone well with certain foreign technology firms as they do not want to store data in India.

The 41-page draft talks about six broad issues of the e-commerce ecosystem — data, infrastructure development, e-commerce marketplaces, regulatory issues, stimulating domestic digital economy and export promotion through e-commerce (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

Telecom Department Asks States Not To Disconnect Power To BSNL Installations

L&T set to seal Mindtree deal with Café Coffee Day founder VG Siddhartha Recently, DoT helped BSNL in clearing its salary bill for February after the PSU found it hard to pay up on its own from its service revenues. In a grim situation underlining the hard-financial pressure on state-run operators, the Department of Telecom (DoT) has requested the state governments not to disconnect electric connections of BSNL/MTNL telecom installations and more so during the coming general elections.

In letters to the state chief secretaries, the Department said: "BSNL is facing financial stress due to hyper competitive telecom scenario and there is a slight delay in paying electricity charges to the state electricity boards.

"The issue of financial support to BSNL is being handled separately by the Department of Telecom. Due to this delay, State Electricity Board is resorting to disconnection of electricity connection at various key installations providing telecom services to election machinery and many other important government agencies hampering telecom services."

The DoT communication added: "Moreover, most of the BSNL/MTNL installations are providing strategic telecom services for the election machinery. "In view of the situation, please issue directions to state electricity board of your state not to resort to the unpleasant action of disconnection of electricity at vital telecom installations of BSNL across the state at least during the period of current election process."

Recently, DoT helped BSNL in clearing its salary bill for February after the PSU (public sector undertaking) found it hard to pay up on its own from its service revenues.

The department had released pending dues of Rs. 171 crore to cash-strapped MTNL for paying February salaries to employees.

The DoT also gave a letter of comfort of Rs. 3,500 crores to working capital requirement of BSNL. (Source: NDTV)


Vodafone CEO raises embarrassing issues for govt: Will Trai ever get it right?

Vodafone CEO raises embarrassing issues for govt: Will Trai ever get it right?Instead of asking Trai for an explanation when it was pulled up so often by the country’s courts, the government reappointed the Trai chief after his term ended. Given how RJio is grabbing market share so aggressively, it is easy to dismiss Vodafone Global CEO Nick Read’s comments on the telecom regulator’s (Trai) decisions hurting all telcos except RJio as typical of a loser. But it is not just Read, Trai is accused of bias by the appellate tribunal (TDSAT) and the Supreme Court. And telecom’s highest policy-making body, the Telecom Commission (TC), has also found fault with Trai on many occasions; TC has asked Trai to explain how it reached the conclusions it had on spectrum pricing—the higher the reserve price, the more it hits telcos who are not as cash-rich as RJio—but Trai refused to do so.

One of the issues raised by the older telcos was Trai’s sharp 57% cut in IUC levies. While Trai had justified this by arguing that newer-generation networks—like RJio’s—had lower termination costs, this made little sense since India had legacy networks as well. While the telcos’ challenge to this is pending before various courts, what is amazing is that Trai never even shared its costing model with the telcos. How can a regulator be so opaque? At another point, Trai suggested heavy penalties for call drops and, a month later, it came up with a technical paper that explained why telcos weren’t entirely responsible for the call drops! When SC ruled on this, it said “a legislatively pre-determined penalty, without fault or loss being established … (is) manifestly arbitrary and unreasonable’; it went on to say ‘(Trai) must respond in a reasoned manner to (comments) that raise significant problems, to explain how the agency resolved any significant problems raised by the comments, and to show how that resolution led the agency to the ultimate rule… including a rational connection between the facts it found and the choices it made”.

In 2016, Trai recommended a `3,050 crore penalty on telcos for not providing enough Points of Interconnection (PoI) for RJio. TC pointed out that telcos had 90 days to provide PoIs and had done so within this period. Trai later came up with a consultation on whether a 90-day period for providing interconnection was too long. An internal committee of TC has come out against the penalty—which is why no decision has been taken on the penalty for so many years—making it clear even the government is not convinced Trai is right. And when Trai was examining the issue of predatory pricing, it said a telco must have a market share of at least 30% to be even investigated for predatory-pricing. While ruling on this, TDSAT said Trai’s definition of significant market power (SMP) showed “a degree of pre-determination to dilute the entire concept of SMP”, it was “arbitrary without any deliberation and effective consultation”, that it was “not backed by any intelligible and objective criterion nor any convincing reason” and so was “an extreme step and unnecessary abdication of its regulatory powers by TRAI”. TDSAT went on to add, that the Trai’s ruling provided “artificial protection to a TSP (telecom service provider) who may have the capability and intent to destabilise the sector through predatory-pricing”. Instead of asking Trai for an explanation when it was pulled up so often by the country’s courts, the government reappointed the Trai chief after his term ended. And, yet, telcos are expected to consider Trai a neutral umpire. (Source: Financial Express)

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