Telecom Operators Seek Licensing Regime for OTT Players Like WhatsApp

Telecom Operators Seek Licensing Regime for OTT Players Like WhatsApp
As regulator Trai firms up rules for 'net neutrality', telecom operators have suggested a licensing regime for over-the-top (OTT) players like WhatsApp and Skype, while technology service providers and individuals advocated for non-discriminatory access to Internet.

The issue of net neutrality has been widely debated in the recent past, within and outside Parliament, and Trai had received over 1 million comments from individuals, service providers and their associations, among others.

As Trai on Monday made public all the comments received by it to a discussion paper floated last month, it showed that the support for 'non-discriminatory and free Internet' largely came from individuals.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) also came in for flak on social media for making public the names and email IDs of everyone who had submitted their comments.

Its website also crashed due to a high traffic flow.

Trai Secretary Sudhir Gupta said there was a network issue from National Informatics Centre (NIC), which manages the website for most regulators and government departments, although a little-known entity claimed to have hacked into its website. The website was restored later in the evening, but continued to witness access problems.

Trai had invited comments till April 24 on its Net Neutrality consultation paper, while 'counter comments' can be submitted till May 8 to the submissions made public on Monday. An open house will be held subsequently.

When asked about privacy concerns because of Trai making public the names and email IDs, Gupta told PTI, "Whatever we have received, we have uploaded on the website."

Responding to Trai's paper, telecom operators said over-the-top players like WhatsApp and Skype are the same as licensed telecom service providers except for the difference that instead of offering their services through their own networks, OTT players' service medium is Internet.

"While it is important for OTT communication service providers to be brought under a regulatory framework on an urgent basis, OTT application services providers who are merely the end users of the Internet need not be brought under any licensing/regulatory regime," Bharti Airtel said.

The 'end user' providers include apps prepared by the information dissemination websites, such as news and entertainment portals.

Those who submitted their comments include Vodafone, Idea, Reliance Jio, Reliance Communications, COAI, Nasscom, ISPAI and Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar.


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