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Exemptions to the terms of the Other Service Provider Guidelines amid COVID-19

Author: Gaurav Shanker, Managing Partner And Yamini Mishra, Associate |

Article by Business Law Chamber

In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian government has been taking proactive measures. Various relaxations have been introduced by the government in most of the sectors to put people and businesses at ease.

Under these exceptional circumstances, the Department of Telecommunication (DOT) took a vital step by relaxing the conditions concerning the ‘work from home' (WFH) facility available to Other Service Providers (OSP) under the prevailing OSP Terms and Conditions (OSP Guidelines).

OSP includes entities which are in the business of providing 'application services', such as call centres, telebanking, tele-medicine, tele-education, tele-trading, e-commerce, network operations centre services, IT enabled services, by using telecom resources.

Under the prevailing OSP Guidelines, the OSPs are allowed WFH facility, subject to the fulfilment of certain terms and conditions, including obtaining prior permission from the DOT to avail WFH facility, submission of prescribed security deposit, procurement of secured interconnection through authorized service providers provisioned secured virtual private network (PPVPN), etc. These conditions are quite stringent and uneconomical during the pandemic.

To mitigate the impact of the pandemic, the DOT has exempted OSPs from the following:

  • Security deposit and WFH agreement: The notification specifies that the requirement of security deposit and execution of agreement for WFH facility with DOT is exempted.
  • PPVPN: The requirement to obtain secured virtual private network (VPN) from authorized telecom service providers is exempted. Instead, the OSPs are permitted to use secured VPN configured using Static IP/ Dynamic IP (from the pool of private IP assigned for VPN to be used for WFH) by themselves for interconnection between home agent position and OSP centre with pre-defined locations. Further, the agents at home shall be treated as extended agent position of the OSP.
  • Prior permission: The notification also exempts the requirement of obtaining prior permission from DOT for WFH facility. The OSPs shall now, be required to provide a prior intimation to the relevant LSA field units of DOT before allowing WFH facility. Further, the OSP registration holder shall be required to submit details of agents/employees WFH including details such as name, address, Static IP/ Dynamic IP pool assigned thereto, and maintain the call detail records and call logs for a period of one year, and provided in a simplified form to DOT/ Security Agencies as and when demanded.

These relaxations are available to OSPs for a limited period i.e. up to 31 May 2020 (Exemption Period).

Further, in case of any violation of the terms and conditions of WFH facility by any agent, employee or by the OSP during the Exemption Period, the OSP shall be liable for a penalty up to INR 500,000 (Indian Rupees Five Hundred Thousand) per WFH location which is in violation. Additionally, the DOT may also cancel the OSP registration.