The highly anticipated Department of Telecom (DoT) report on Net Neutrality has apparently recommended that Over-The-Top (OTT) services such as WhatsApp and Skype be regulated under the guise of maintaining fair play in the telecom sector.
Telecom operators had earlier floated the idea of it being made mandatory for OTT services to pay a licensing fee and adhering to other guidelines for operation in the country. The suggestion received a lot of flak from the public, as it violates net neutrality norms.
The revelation comes as television News channel ET Now got its hands on a copy of the report submitted to Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for his approval. Social Media has lit up with people voicing their disapproval of the move.
Indian Telcos are claiming that they are losing revenues to OTT services such as WhatsApp and Skype since these services offer free voice calling and messaging to users, prompting them to make fewer calls and send fewer messages over traditional networks.
Another argument telcos have brought up the lack of sufficient broadband infrastructure in the country, which could crash if the use of OTT services isn’t regulated.
However, it should be noted that telecom operators charge users for the data that gets used while making calls and sending messages through OTT services. Some operators have even tied up with IM clients to offer users free use of their apps, in turn earning revenues directly from OTT players.
The report has been submitted by the committee DoT appointed along with telecom regulator TRAI’s suggestions. If telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad approves the report, regulating OTT services will no longer be seen as violation of Net Neutrality norms in India.
From the ET Now report, it isn’t clear what stand the DoT committee has taken on Zero Rated services such as Airtel Zero, which have again been hammered by the public and net neutrality activists for grossly putting telecom operators in control of what content users see on the Internet.
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