Net neutrality: Telecoms want OTT to face same taxes

To ensure net neutrality and a level playing field in India, telecom service providers want OTT (over-the-counter) firms, which offer voice services, to come under the same tax regime in the country.

Net neutrality: COAI wants users to have freedom to choose

Telecom licensees pay as much as 15 percent of their AGRs as license fee along with other related charges towards sector specific levies and various central and state taxes borne by mobile service providers.

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Top officials of Aircel, Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Telenor, Videocon, Vodafone India and Reliance Jio Infocomm are supporting net neutrality.

They said they supported free and fair access to internet but called for the same services, same rule regime for all categories of players.

“We’re pro-consumers. We don’t believe in blocking any site. We are committed to net neutrality,” said Gopal Vittal, chief executive officer of Bharti Airtel.

COAI members at Net Neutrality press meet

The chief executives said the same services, same rule must apply for all players and not just the telecom operators. The levies they pay to the government, such as license fee, should be applicable to over-the-top players who offer, among other services, voice and text telephony.

The Indian telecom operators did not want net for few and that it believes in net for all. Himanshu Kapania, CEO of Idea Cellular said the telecom industry was not seeking new licenses for new apps and OTT services. “A free hand to OTT players will impact future investments in the industry,” he said at a press briefing organized by COAI.

The telecom industry contributes 3.5 percent to India’s gross domestic product. It has cumulative investments of over Rs 750,000 crore made in the past 20 years. To make internet available, the industry needs to invest over Rs 500,000 crore in the next five years.

“Let the government decide the rules of the game,” said Vodafone CEO Sunil Sood.

Caption: Rajan S Mathews, director general of COAI; Rajiv Bawa of Telenor; Sunil Sood, MD & CEO of Vodafone India; Gopal Vittal, MD & CEO (India & South Asia) of Bharti Airtel;  Himanshu Kapania, MD of Idea Cellular; Arvind Bali, director & CEO of Videocon Telecommunications; Shankar Adawal,  regulatory head of Reliance Jio; Ashok Sharma, national head regulatory of Aircel

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