File photo of the Egyptian Parliament. AP
The amendments, which were approved by the Senate last month, are to the 2003 Telecom Regulation Act.
The bill stipulates that citizens should get prior approval from the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) before exercising any of the abovementioned activities. Violators implicated in importing, manufacturing, assembling and marketing any telecom equipment without getting a prior NTRA license will face imprisonment of one to five years, as well as a fine of EGP 2 to 5 million.
Violators convicted of possessing, installing, operating or using any telecom equipment without a prior NTRA license shall face one year imprisonment and a fine between EGP 100,000 and 200,000.
The bill was approved despite concerns raised by many MPs that the amendments do not specify what kind of telecom equipment would be banned.
Ayman Abul-Ela, an opposition MP with the Reform and Development Party, said "as the bill doesn't specify what kind of telecom equipment would be banned, we have fears that this ban could extend to include personal computers, laptops, watches, and even stethoscopes… etc."
"All of these are telecom equipment and so they could be banned by the bill," said Abul-Ela.
Businessman Mohamed Abul-Enein, the House's deputy speaker, proposed that the NTRA release a list clarifying what telecom equipment will be banned and what will be allowed on the market.
MP Amr Darwish, on the other hand, said the bill is clear in that "it imposes a ban on telecommunications equipment considered a threat to national security and that these are the ones which could be used by terrorist organisations to spread violence and rumours."
"This is different from personal telecom equipment which are being handled on the market," said Darwish, also clarifying that "the bill is mainly targeting equipment which could cause harm to national security."
Darwish clarified that in many cases citizens returning to Egypt from abroad come in possession of some telecommunication equipment which could be used in gathering information in an illegal way.
"These are different from the personal computers and cell phones which are sold everywhere," said Darwish.
MP Hala Abul-Saad "we believe in the necessity of preserving national security and that national security is a red line, and so we support any legislative step aiming to regulate the import and use of telecommunication equipment that could cause harm to national security in light of fast technological developments on the market."
MP Hani Abaza said "the technology of telecommunication equipment, particularly in the area of gathering information, has been progressing very fast and that it is very dangerous that terrorist and extremist groups get access to this equipment."
"I think this law will help safeguard the nation against bad uses of telecom equipment without abusing the right of citizens in possessing personal devices like computers and laptops," said Abaza.