Elon Musk’s Satellite Internet Is Breaking Indians Laws? Govt Starts Scrutiny, Legal Notice Can Be Sent
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has started scrutinizing Elon Musk-led SpaceX’s offer to pre-sell its Starlink satellite internet service in India to know if it flouts any of the country’s existing telecom and technology laws.
According to the Economic Times, which cited a senior DoT official, the department is attempting to determine if the Starlink beta service offer violates any provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, India’s Satcom regulation, 2000, and the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.
Starlink In India
Elon Musk aims to launch its satellite internet service, Starlink, in India in 2022. Satellite internet has a lot of potential in India as providing coverage through the on-ground mobile tower in remote areas is difficult.
Normally the communication satellite operates from medium earth orbit of 2000km to 35,000km and sometimes beyond 35,000. But due to closer proximity to the earth’s surface Starlink will result in better internet service.
As per WEF, India has also been one of the fastest-growing markets in terms of new adoption with the number of internet users growing by 23% between 2019 and 2020.
Several Indian locations have been specified on the website. Indian users can pre-book the Starlink services at a refundable amount of $99(around Rs 7265).
It Shouldn’t Violate India’s Existing Telecom Regulation
If it is legally determined that Starlink’s offer breaches existing telecom laws, is not in the best interests of consumers, and has national security consequences, then the official said that action, including sending a notice at first, may be taken.
He went on to say that the offer does not appear to violate Section 4 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, because “SpaceX has yet to create, maintain, or work a telegraph in Indian jurisdiction.”
A ‘telegraph’, under the Act, is any appliance, instrument, or apparatus used for transmission or reception of signals, images, data, and sounds/intelligence by wire or other electromagnetic emissions. “But the DoT is yet to firm up its final views,” the business daily quoted the DoT official as saying.
The Broadband India Forum (BIF), which represents companies such as Bharti Airtel-UK government-owned satellite venture OneWeb, Amazon, Hughes, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, recently requested that the government prohibit SpaceX from pre-selling the beta edition of its Starlink satellite internet services in India, claiming that the Elon Musk-led US satellite operator did not comply with Indian regulations. Following this complaint from BIF, DoT started this scrutiny.
Previously, SpaceX began accepting preorders for the beta edition of its Starlink satellite internet service in India for a $99 completely refundable deposit (more than Rs 7,000).
“We are trying to examine if Starlink’s offer legally flouts any existing Indian telecom/technology regulations as the company appears to be offering an advance booking option for a future satellite internet service to Indian consumers and is not immediately selling a product or rendering a service,” the business daily quoted another senior official as saying.