New Delhi: A government panel on net neutrality has said that domestic calls offered by Over-The-Top (OTT) players (Skype, Whatsapp and Viber among others) and telecom operators should be similarly regulated. This has been a major demand of the telecom operators, which fear that OTT will eat into their traditional voice revenues. However, the report came under attack from a section, which alleged that it favoured the telecom service providers.
Right now there is no regulation on domestic calls offered by OTT players and this panel said creates non-level playing field between them and telecom operators. The panel, which was headed by telecom department advisor (technology) A.K. Bhargava seemed to have agreed with the telecom operators views that OTT are exploiting “pricing and regulatory arbitrage”. The report said that “pricing arbitrage of OTT domestic voice communication services has the potential of significantly disrupting existing telecom revenue models.”
The panel said that this pricing arbitrage in favour of OTT players “may decelerate the pace of telecom infrastructure expansion, whereas the need is to boost investment in telecom infrastructure to increase broadband reach, speeds, bandwidth capacity and enhanced quality of service.”However, it said that as far as international calling services offered by OTT is concerned, a liberal approach should be adopted.
It has also opposed earlier approach of Facebook’s Internet.Org, which allowed access to certain websites without mobile data charges. It said that tariff plans offered by telcos must conform to the principles of net neutrality and proposed that Trai should examine whether tariff plans offered by operators conforms to the principles of net neutrality. The panel said that national security is paramount, regardless of treatment of net neutrality....