NEW DELHI: India’s telecom regulator must not treat over-the-top apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, and Google as substitutes of telecom carriers, and the former cannot be regulated under the India Telegraph Act (ITA), according to an independent industry body.“The argument that OTT services should be regulated under the same licensing regime that applies to TSPs (telecom service providers) is incorrect and erroneously overlooks the vast and critical differences between the two entities,” telecom policy think tank Broadband India Forum said in a statement on Tuesday. BIF’s comments come after the telecom regulatory authority of India (Trai), on Monday, said that there was no need for regulatory intervention in OTT communication apps relating to privacy and security as of now, though it said market developments need to be monitored.Though the policy forum lauded Trai’s decision, it opposed the authority stance on regulating such services.BIF said that TSPs enjoy several exclusive rights, for example the right to acquire spectrum, obtain numbering resources, and right of way to set up infrastructure. “OTT players neither have these privileges, nor own the network or control the access to telecom infrastructure.”Since OTTs do not operate a telecommunication/telegraph network nor do they lease network capacity from a network operator, they do not fall under the purview of the ITA, 1885, the body said.BIF also said “to put TSPs and OTTs at par is wholly unjustified, arbitrary, unconstitutional and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution,” which governs level-playing field.The body also believes that OTT players should be treated as essential service providers to empower delivery of digital services in today’s challenging circumstances. Measures like work-from-home, distant education, updating and dissemination of critical information and messages, etc. have been enabled by these services.
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