Public Wi-Fi without licence could threaten data privacy: COAI

By: | Published: July 16, 2018 5:22 AM

Public Data Office Aggregators will offer services without licence, which puts them outside the ambit of Trai: Industry body.

The objections of the industry body are based on Trai’s recommendations for introducing PDOs and PDOAs for public Wi-Fi hotspots under a registration. (Representational image)

Telecom operator’s association COAI has written to the Centre that with Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOAs) having no obligation to offer interception and monitoring facilities, it could threaten data privacy and national security.

It also raised the issue that consumers’ interest could be adversely impacted as Public Data Office (PDOs) and PDOAs will offer internet services without licence, which puts them outside the regulatory ambit of Trai.

The objections of the industry body are based on Trai’s recommendations for introducing PDOs and PDOAs for public Wi-Fi hotspots under a registration. “In the proposed structure, the PDOAs have no obligation to offer lawful interception and monitoring facilities. Further, activities as subscriber registration and verification have been left to the discretion of PDOAs and they have been permitted to even outsource these activities, which is a serious threat to data privacy and national security,” COAI director general Rajan S Mathews said in a letter to telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan.

Mathews added that as per the Trai Act, the authority is empowered to regulate only the licensed service providers and not unlicensed entities. “The provision of internet services by unlicensed operators will be completely detrimental to the consumer interest as Trai will become ineffectual in regulating the unlicensed entities on key aspects such as tariff, consumer redressal, billing, net neutrality, quality of service etc, which are critical aspects for protection of consumer interests,” he said.

COAI said that the provision of PDOA and PDO model coupled with the proposed de-licensing of V-band spectrum will enable the unlicensed service providers to de-facto offer internet services with limited mobile facility.

“This will pave the way for large foreign entities to enter the Indian access services market with zero investment, no licence and no obligations to the Indian government. This is evident from one of the media reports, which clearly indicates that large foreign entities are supporting the delicensing of V-band so that they can offer access services without being subjected to any licensing regime, revenue share and security requirements,” it added.

The association said, “Such a regime will effectively discredit the efforts of licensed service providers by putting them in a non-level playing field, which have been providing services legitimately by following licensing requirements and using the licensed spectrum”.

The issue of Trai’s recommendations on public Wi-Fi has become a rallying point for several industry associations as they have been complaining to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Department of Telecommunications about the suggestion not meeting the requisite regulatory aspects.

Earlier this month, the Internet Service Providers Association of India and industry body Assocham wrote to the PMO and the DoT to review Trai’s recommendation allowing PDOAs and PDOs to provide internet through Wi-Fi without a licence, which they claim violates the Indian Telegraph Act and Trai Act.

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