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TRAI consultation paper to address regulatory imbalance between OTT players & tecos

OTT app companies say they are regulated by the IT Act.

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MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is attempting to handle the ‘regulatory imbalance’ between telecom companies and OTT apps that provide similar services like Facebook, WhatsApp, etc. An ongoing consultation process is addressing this issue.

TRAI chairman RS Sharma said, “In the OTT consultation, our focus is on regulatory imbalance from the perspective of telecom operators.” According to Sharma, the consultation has a limited scope since the issues surrounding discriminatory pricing and net neutrality has already been sorted.

The new paper looks at regulatory issues and economic concerns for apps that provide services similar to telcos. App companies reject the claim that they are unregulated; saying they are regulated under the IT Act and that any move to regulate them like the telcos will suppress innovation. TRAI is expected to come out with a new OTT framework by the middle of this year.

Sharma said that telcos are licensees and have restrictions and comply with law enforcement agencies as well unlike communication OTT players, which leads to a regulatory imbalance. Such apps are considered “free riders” on telecom networks. “It may not be true to call OTT apps merely free riders. Customers ultimately end up paying data charges for the services they use,” he said.

TRAI has already come out with directives barring discriminatory pricing of data services and has also issued recommendations on net neutrality which has been approved by the government and incorporated in telecom licenses.

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