Internet service providers (ISPs) are set to meet on Thursday to deliberate on the next course of action regarding the Supreme Court verdict on adjusted gross revenue (AGR), based on which the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has issued notices to them asking to pay the dues.
The internet service providers association of India (ISPAI) will be holding the meeting to finalise the next move as the issuance of notices has created an unprecedented crisis among the ISPs and, if forced to pay, many of the smaller companies will be forced to close down.
The ISPAI has already written letters to Union communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Cabinet secretary, finance secretary, expenditure secretary, telecom secretary, among others, seeking relief as the financial exposure of some of the licencees that will be impacted by the judgment will be over Rs 2.3 lakh crore, which may rise even further.
In the letter, ISPAI has stressed on the point that implementation of the apex court order on the licencees who were not even parties to the dispute would not be desirable apart from being unsustainable from a legal perspective.
“The implementation of the judgement on any service provider will lead to huge financial crisis, especially in small and medium ISPs spread across the country in rural areas,” the ISPAI letter said.
The association has around 100 ISPs as members, notable names include state-run Powergrid and STPI, apart from ACT, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Hathway etc.
The association is hoping that government will intervene in the matter and some solution can be found so that ISPs won’t have to pay the dues.
However, DoT officials told FE that even though the ISPs were not party in the mater but the verdict will be implemented on all the companies, which have taken licence from DoT. “We are bound by the SC verdict. If the ISPs feel they have not been represented, they can approach the Supreme Court to seek relief,” the official said.
The SC, in its October 24 order, had upheld DoT’s definition of gross revenue and AGR while dismissing appeals filed by telecom operators. The court had also upheld the imposition of interest, penalty and interest on penalty. As per government, the telecom operators owe `55,054.51 crore as spectrum usage charges (SUC) as on October 31, 2019, while the figure for licence fees stands at Rs 92,642 crore.