Even as OTT players voice concern over the move to bring them under licensing and regulation, telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Friday defended such a proviso in the new Telecom Bill.
“OTT already comes under regulation by interpretation of what is a telegraph. The consultation process for its regulation has already started. The focus of this Bill is that herever required, there should be a strict effective regulation and for the rest, there will be light-touch regulation,” the minister said.
The Bill proposes all internet calling and messaging apps to comply with the know your customers (KYC) provision when they come under telecom licence ambit.
Vaishnaw said the first fundamental thought in the Bill is about protection of users and every consumer has the right to know who is making the call.
“If calls can take place from different platforms then every platform needs to come under the same kind of regulation. This is not only in India, this is the thought process across the world. Technology has brought so many changes that the distinction between voice call and data call has disappeared,” he said.
The minister added that the KYC norms will also help in curbing cyber frauds.
As reported earlier, once the Bill gets approved, OTT players like Whatsapp, Zoom, Google Duo and similar apps, which provide calling and messaging services, may require licences to operate in the country.
While the government has sought reference from Trai on licensing framework for internet and calling messages, the Bill clearly shows the government intent to bring the OTT apps under the licensing regime.
The new Telecom Bill, which will replace the 137-year-old Indian Telegraph Act, is expected to be in place in 6-10 months but the government is not in a hurry, Vaishnaw said.
The Bill also seeks to replace the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950.
“Based on the consultation process, we will create the final draft. That draft will then go through committee processes of Parliament. Then it has to go (to) Parliament. I see a timeline of 6-10 months but we are not in a hurry,” Vaishnaw said regarding the timeline for implementation of the final Bill.