The Department of Telecommunications on March 13 temporarily relaxed regulations around working from home for Other Service Providers (OSPs), as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak. OSPs include international call centres, BPO and KPO centres, medical transcription companies, and other such entities. The DoT said that OSPs would no longer have to deposit ₹1 crore to let employees work from home, nor would they have to get a “provider-provisioned” VPN connection, using any static IP VPN provided by the OSP instead. OSPs won’t have to get DoT permission either, but will have to inform the department’s local office of remote workers’ addresses. This relaxation will be in place until April 30.

Accepting TRAI recommendation — temporarily

The DoT circular’s relaxation is odd because it is temporary. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended last October that all this deregulation be done permanently. In the almost five months since, this is the first action the DoT is taking based on those recommendations, and that too only on one aspect (work from home regulations). It is unclear why the DoT is trial-running what seems to be perfectly reasonably recommendations that came after a thorough consultation process.

The OSP Association of India called the work-from-home regulations “not at all reasonable”, Microsoft called them “draconic”, Jio said they come at “great cost”, NASSCOM labelled them “archaic”, and the US India Business Council called them “very stringent and not practical”. Some of these stakeholders said that these rules make working out of smaller tier-3 towns and rural areas very difficult.