Trai Runs Into Dilemma Over Regulation of OTT Applications Like WhatsApp and Facebook

The telecom companies want the OTT apps regulated similar to how they are regulated. However, the architecture and privacy policy of these apps do not permit that

By January 30th, 2020 AT 12:42 PM
Highlights
  • Trai had started a consultation on the matter back in 2018
  • OTT Apps say that they are already under IT Act regulation
  • The telcos say that the OTT apps do not have to pay license fees

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is the highest authority when it comes to rules and regulations in the telecom industry. Apart from this, Trai also has its hands in the DTH and broadcasting industry and regulates these sectors as well. However, since the past few years, there have been discussions going on about the regulation of the OTT applications as well. The OTT applications like WhatsApp, Facebook and others have found a wide audience in the Indian consumers, and hence Trai thinks that there is a need for regulation in them. But, according to an ET Telecom report, Trai has likely run into some complications while thinking of regulating the OTT industry.

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Trai Divided Over Regulation of OTT Apps

The Trai officials have said that the regulating of the OTT industry is far more complicated than what was thought initially. As per the officials, when the discussions about regulations started, they were more about financial arbitrage issues between the telecom companies and the applications. However, over time the discussion of these issues has evolved more into a discussion of security, privacy and lawful interception. Not only this, but Trai has also found an absence of such laws in other countries in the case of OTT apps. With this, Trai has added that there is a need to keep in mind about the upcoming data protection laws and intermediary social guidelines.

Telcos Want Equal Regulations for OTT Apps

A senior Trai official told ET, “It started as an economic issue, but then as the consultation went along, the issue changed, and it’s become more of a security and lawful enforcement matter.” The telecom operators have wanted equal regulations with these OTT apps saying that while they have to pay the license fees and suffer the scrutiny of regulations, the OTT apps do not have to go through any such thing and not even pay license fees. On this, the OTT app companies have said that they already are regulated by the IT Act, and any further regulation would stifle innovation in the sector.

Trai started the process of consulting over the regulations for OTT application back in November 2018, but till now no stable view has been condensed on the matter. Trai has run into complications that are beyond just economic stance and run into privacy, security and other matters.

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Arpit spends his day closely following the telecom and tech industry. A music connoisseur and a night owl, he also takes a deep interest in the Indian technology start-up scene and spends rest of his time spilling poetry and stories on paper.

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