To provide an equal playing field, there has been an increasing call for OTT (over-the-top) communication players to fall under the same licencing or regulatory requirements as telecom players. In a letter to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) Secretary K Rajaraman, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) proposed levying a "usage tax" for the actual traffic carried by OTT on telecom networks.
Imposition of a Usage Fee for OTT Players
According to the letter from the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the usage fee would be agreed upon mutually by telcos and OTT players who, in exchange for using the services, must help build and develop India's digital telecom infrastructure.
The government must establish a legislative framework that permits service providers to bill every customer who makes use of their services. In addition, the letter stated that if a mutual agreement could not be achieved, a suitable regulatory and licencing framework should be in place to control how OTT providers can contribute to the building of network infrastructure.
COAI noted that OTT player regulation has become increasingly popular on a global scale. It further said that any organisation that invests money to build a property or infrastructure is right to collect usage fees from anybody who utilises that property or infrastructure for business purposes, including rent, lease payments, and other fees.
In the letter, as read by ET Telecom, it was also stated that the European Commission (EU) is in favour of formalising the necessary legislation to allow OTT firms to fairly share the cost of network investments incurred by telecom operators. Additionally, the EU had previously claimed that large IT firms produce a lot of data traffic but do not invest in infrastructure development. A groundbreaking law was approved in Australia in February 2022 with the goal of requiring internet firms to pay for news content on their digital platforms.