TRAI seeks views on Net neutrality

TRAI seeks views on Net neutrality

Telecom regulator TRAI on Friday started the process to prepare regulatory framework for over-the-top (OTT) players, defined as service providers offering ICT (Information Communication Technology) services without operating either a network or leasing network capacity from a network operator.

The name OTT is derived from the fact that they go ‘over-the-top’ of a telecom service provider’s (TSP) network to provide their services.

TRAI has identified three basic types of OTT players — communication services (Skype, WhatsApp, etc); application eco-systems linked to social networks and eCommerce (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc); and providers of video/audio content (YouTube, Netflix, etc).

“Worldwide, there is an ongoing debate among governments, industry, and consumers regarding regulation of OTT services and Net-neutrality. In this background, TRAI released a consultation paper on regulatory framework for OTT services,” TRAI Secretary Sudhir Gupta said in a statement. Telecom operators have been pushing for a regulatory framework around OTT players as they see applications like Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, etc. as competitors which are cutting into telecom company revenues in voice call and messaging. TRAI, however, has not acted so far on the requests of telecom firms.

At the international level, internet-based companies have been opposing any move that can make access to online services expensive or restrain the flow of information over the internet. TRAI Chairman Rahul Khullar had earlier indicated about starting the process to frame regulation on OTT services after Airtel earned huge criticism from public for its plan to charge separately for VoIP calls, against the principles of Net-neutrality.

Under the Net-neutrality principle, telecom and Internet companies should treat all Web-based services equally and there should be no differential pricing or any kind of barrier that discourages people from accessing services. However, there is no legislation in India at present on Net-neutrality.

The regulator has sought views of people in the matter by April 24 and counter comments by May 8.

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