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COVID-19: Telecom Department Asks States To Permit Movement Of Field Staff

The telecom department on Saturday wrote to chief secretaries of all states, urging them to allow movement of field staff of telecom companies and infrastructure providers, and give other permissions to ensure uninterrupted operation of critical communications networks amid coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter to the chief secretaries of all states and union territories on ensuring “operational continuity of telecom services in view of threat of COVID-19 outbreak”, the Telecom Department said that in case of restrictions being contemplated for containment of coronavirus, all critical telecom infrastructure should be permitted to remain operational.

Moreover, all critical telecom infrastructure should be permitted to be manned by the staff of telecom service providers/telecom infrastructure providers, it said.

“For accessing critical telecom infrastructure locations, the movement of the staff of telecom service providers/telecom infrastructure providers be permitted,” the letter said.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) has also said that movement of vehicles carrying diesel for the DG sets at critical telecom infrastructure should be allowed, and that sufficient diesel availability should be ensured.

It has also sought states’ cooperation for ensuring availability of power supply to critical telecom infrastructure.

“The support of police and disaster response forces be provided to telecom service providers/telecom infrastructure providers, if necessary,” it said.

The DoT underlined that at this juncture a robust telecom infrastructure is critical for providing access to emergency services.

”…ensuring uninterrupted operation of critical telecom infrastructure is of paramount importance…,” the DoT said.

Critical telecom infrastructure includes telephone exchanges, mobile switching centres, network operation centres, transmission centres, data centres, telecom tower sites, call centres of telecom service providers and warehouses where maintenance spares of telecom service providers are stored.

The latest moves comes after the telecom department on Friday met telcos and associations to discuss critical issues around business continuity of communications networks, as industry sought government intervention for allowing movement of essential field staff and sought other waivers to keep services up-and-running amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Representatives from industry bodies like COAI and Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA) as well as telecom operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Reliance Jio and state-owned telcos had attended the meeting called by senior telecom department officials.

As such, the government has initiated a slew of measures to contain the spread of coronavirus and create an awareness around the global pandemic. It has launched a chatbot on messaging app WhatsApp to address any queries that people may have about coronavirus.

Sources said the chatbot has been developed and implemented by Jio Haptik Technologies, a conversational AI platform and a subsidiary of Reliance Industries.

‘MyGov Corona Helpdesk’ can be accessed by sending a Whatsapp message to +91 9013151515. It is equipped to resolve various FAQs pertaining to the novel coronavirus including necessary precautionary measures, symptoms, helpline numbers, affected cases in the region, Government advisories (including travel) amongst others.

—The Hindu Business Line

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