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TRAI to shortly come up with views on regulating apps like WhatsApp, Facebook

May 18, 2024 09:26 AM IST

TRAI Chairman Lohti said that the telecom regulator will now proceed with open house discussions on framing a regulatory mechanism for these OTT services.

Over-the-top services such as Facebook, WhatsApp, X, Instagram and Signal may come under a regulatory regime as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is looking forward to coming up with recommendations on them. This development comes at a time when the government, in a recently passed telecom act, had kept these services out of the regulatory regime.

Whatsapp logo(REUTERS)

TRAI Chairman Anil Kumar Lohti said that the telecom regulator will now proceed with open house discussions on framing a regulatory mechanism for these OTT services, Times of India said in a report. “I know we have an ongoing consultation on OTT communication. It is just that in the last few months we are burning the midnight oil clearing the number of references pending with us, and OTT communication is also in the line,” TOI quoted Lohti.

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Speaking further he said, “The OTT consultation was initiated after the recommendation of a parliamentary committee so this consultation will be completed, and we will give our recommendations… which act it becomes a part of and which ministry or which regulator deals with it, is a separate matter.”

The Lok Sabha passed the Telecommunications Bill, 2023, through a voice vote in December last year. “The bill [seeks] to amend and consolidate the law relating to development, expansion and operation of telecommunication services and telecommunication networks; assignment of spectrum; and for connected matters,” communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said while introducing the bill.

The bill replaced the Indian Telegraph Act (1885) and the Wireless Telegraphy Act (1933). Industry bodies such as the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Broadband India Forum (BIF) welcomed the bill. However, some MPs and technology activists expressed concern on three fronts: inclusion of “online services” including OTT messaging ones; stringent user verification norms; and fears of heightened surveillance.

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The Internet Society, in a statement after the passage of the bill, said, “The Bill must contain provisions for distinguishing between traditional telecom services and Internet-based services.”

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