The Government’s push for regulatory mechanisms for OTT services

By Amigos IAS

Why is it in the news?

  • Recently, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a consultation paper, seeking responses on the regulation of over-the-top (OTT) communication services and the possibility of selective banning of these services.
    • The consultation paper specifically focuses on OTT communication services like WhatsApp, Signal, Meta, Google Meet, Zoom, etc., rather than content-based OTTs like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
    • Content regulation falls under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) and not under TRAI.
  • The discussion on the selective banning of OTT services was prompted by a notice from a Parliamentary Standing Committee to the Department of Telecom (DoT) due to concerns about the unrest caused by these platforms, which have a broad reach and impact.

More about the news

  • Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) argue that OTTs should be regulated and charged because they use the infrastructure created by TSPs over the years, leading to a loss of revenue for telecom companies.
  • The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), representing telecom players like Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone Idea, contends that OTT service providers do not contribute to the exchequer or invest in network infrastructure like TSPs, creating an imbalance.
  • COAI proposes a policy framework for fair share contributions from large OTT providers to telecom network operators based on criteria like the number of subscribers or data usage.
  • The Internet Service Providers Association of India suggests that OTT services, if substitutable, should be subject to the same rules as services offered under telecom licenses, regardless of whether they are provided over the operator’s network or the internet.
  • The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) opposes cost-sharing mechanisms that may lead to double charging consumers for the same services and potentially raise the cost of internet usage.
  • IAMAI emphasizes the importance of net neutrality, which advocates network neutrality for all information transmitted over the internet.
  • The Internet Freedom Foundation expresses concerns about the proposal for selective banning of OTT services.
  • COAI argues that licensing OTT communication services would make it easier to implement location-based blocking of services when necessary, and source-level blocking should be considered by the government.
  • IAMAI and the Broadband India Forum (BIF) believe that existing regulations, such as the IT Act, 2000, and the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, are sufficient to govern OTT services, and selective bans are unnecessary.
  • COAI suggests that OTT providers should develop IT solutions to swiftly suspend their services during internet outages.

 

TRAI

·       TRAI was established on February 20, 1997, through the enactment of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997.

·       TRAI’s primary mission is to create and nurture conditions that foster the growth and development of the telecommunications sector in India.

·       TRAI plays a crucial role in regulating various aspects of telecom services in the country.

 

 

OTT Services:

·       An OTT media service is an online content provider that delivers streaming media content directly to users over the internet, bypassing traditional cable or satellite TV providers.

·       OTT services primarily focus on video-on-demand content, offering movies, TV shows, documentaries, and original programming.

·       However, OTT also encompasses other content types like audio streaming (music and podcasts), messaging services, and internet-based voice calling solutions.

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