Industry bodies, civil society organizations and consumer groups have come together to express concerns around the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) consultation paper on the regulatory framework for over-the-top (OTT) communication services, and the selective banning of OTT services.
Broadband India Forum in its submission emphasises the success of OTTs in boosting India’s app economy and asserts that OTTs are adequately regulated under the existing IT Act, 2000, and other associated acts and rules.
BIF’s recommendation stems from the belief that the current regulatory landscape has fostered a healthy app economy growth in India, marked by one of the world’s highest annual app download rates. Additionally, any attempt to introduce new regulatory frameworks could disrupt the existing competitive landscape and compromise consumer benefits and innovation.
President T V Ramachandran, BIF, said, “OTTs have significantly enhanced accessibility to digital tools and amenities, enriching lives and empowering individuals by boosting productivity and socio-economic standing. This has resulted in massive economic spill-over effects, contributing to the nation’s prosperity. We hope that the regulator and the Government will allow market forces to operate freely, incentivising growth and progress in this vital sector. TSPs can compete freely, and OTTs should not face restrictions in favour of TSPs.”
As many as 11 consumer groups including the Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), Consumer Guidance Society, Consumer Guild, etc, have said that the proposal on selective banning coupled with regulating carriage and content would lead to overregulation and would create regulatory uncertainty in the Indian market.
“Such a consultation on selective banning should form a part of the consultations over the DIA. Moreover, the technicality of how the same can be undertaken remains unclear as well,” CUTS said, adding that if the process, including the appropriate authority to monitor such selective banning is not clearly laid down, it will result in regulatory uncertainty and further overregulation. “How the OTT apps are selected, the reason behind such selection and under what scenario will the ban be implemented, are all information which should be made available to the public. This should be done by way of a written public order, which should clearly lay down the rationale of the decision,”