Trai’s consultation paper throws up opposing views

Nasscom said the IT Act is mandated to ensure net neutrality and they believe there is no need for additional regulations for content and services.

As expected, diametrically opposing views were aired by telecom operators and those functioning purely in the internet space in their responses to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) consultation paper seeking to know whether over-the-top players like WhatsApp or Skype should be regulated or not.

While the telecom service operators maintained that in the absence of parity between voice calls and internet-based calls (VoIP), data prices will shoot up 6-10 times, Nasscom and  Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) opposed any regulatory framework for OTTs.

The gist of the latter’s comments was that OTTs are regulated under the IT Act and it’s wrong to say they ride free on the networks built by telecom service providers. According to them, telcos sell bandwidth to customers which is used by them to access apps, which is leading to the growing revenues of telcos through data services.
Emphasising that if there’s no ‘same service same rule’,  telecom companies said they would need to hike the cost of data services from 25 paise per megabyte (MB) to Rs 2.5 per MB.

“If the pricing for all services (including VoIP) will be the same, then the current tariffs of voice (75 paise/minute), SMS (20 paise/SMS) and data (25paise/MB) will have to converge to anywhere between 108 paise/MB to 250 paise/MB for data just to maintain the current revenue as shown above. This will have to be increased further to be able to cover the current deficit vis a vis cost of capital,” Idea Cellular said in its response to Trai’s consultation paper on regulatory framework for OTT services.

“Service being offered by OTT communications are not only a challenge to TSPs but in fact would result in applying brakes on massive investments being
undertaken by TSPs for expansion of network into deep rural pockets which is meant for the next billion internet users and to those who have yet to experience the utility of internet,” the company said.

Countering the viewpoint of TSPs, IAMAI said telecom companies already charge for data services which they offer on their network and so they cannot charge more for using the same network. This, it said it is against the concept of net neutrality and would create an impediment for growth of the telecom sector, which is still in a nascent stage.

IAMAI  also tried to clear the air regarding internet platforms and services being unregulated. Contrarily, it said their services are already strongly regulated through the powerful and effective IT Act 2000, which was amended in 2008.

Nasscom said the IT Act is mandated to ensure net neutrality and they believe there is no need for additional regulations for content and services.

“Internet Platforms and Services communications do not require licensing. There are user led evaluation reports that help consumers make an informed choice as they adopt internet platforms and services,” Nasscom said.

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