Industry and Civil Society Unite Against Telco’s Push for OTT Regulation and Fair Share Charges

Industry bodies and civil society organizations have joined forces to counter telecommunications operators’ demands for the regulation of Over-The-Top (OTT) services and the imposition of network usage fees.
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This collective response comes in the form of counter comments submitted in response to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) consultation paper on the regulatory framework for OTT communication services.

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) emphasized in its counter comments that OTT services are not substitutes but additions to traditional telecommunications services. Attempting to define subsets of OTT for regulatory purposes was deemed near impossible, given the nature of bundled services provided by OTTs. The symbiotic relationship between OTT services and Telecommunication Service Providers (TSPs) was highlighted, showcasing the mutual benefits derived from the demand for network services generated by OTT content.

The argument for a ‘fair share’ was challenged, with reference to the findings of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) that emphasized excessive regulation could stifle technological innovation. The Broadband India Forum (BIF) reiterated that network usage fees from OTTs demanded by telecom operators were outdated and contradicted net neutrality principles.

BIF President T V Ramachandran cautioned against overregulation, which could lead to higher costs for customers and reduce consumer choice. He also emphasized the adverse impact on innovation, smaller entities, and startups. The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) echoed concerns about revenue-sharing arrangements, warning of potential discouragement of digital enterprise growth and increased costs for consumers.

Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) International emphasized that OTT services are already regulated under existing laws and introducing further regulation could stifle innovation, hinder economic growth, and have implications for privacy and data protection. Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) stressed the inherent structural and functional differences between TSPs and OCS, urging TRAI to avoid unnecessary intervention.

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) argued against introducing a separate telecom regulatory regime for OTT services, emphasizing existing comprehensive regulatory frameworks under the IT Act, IT Rules, and DPDP Act. Highlighting the potential for double payment with revenue-sharing arrangements, IAMAI stressed the substantial contributions of OTT service providers to the growth of data consumption and economic activity in India.

This unified response underscores the concerns regarding the imposition of additional regulation on OTT services and emphasizes the need to strike a balance between fostering innovation, preserving net neutrality, and ensuring fair competition in the digital landscape.