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Levy a usage charge on OTT players for actual traffic, COAI

The over-the-top (OTT) platforms must contribute towards creating and developing digital telecom infrastructure in India in exchange for using the services, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said.

“Any entity which creates a property or infrastructure by investing funds, is entitled to take usage charges (rent /lease charges, etc.) from the user of that property or infrastructure who uses the same for commercial purposes,” they said in the letter to the telecom secretary.

COAI added that the government must provide a legal framework to enable the service providers to charge any user that uses their services.

The body suggested levying a “usage charge” for actual traffic carried by OTT on telecom networks. It said the charge must be “mutually agreed between the TSPs and OTT Players”.

“If a mutual agreement is not reached, then an appropriate Licencing and Regulatory framework should be in place which governs the contribution of OTT players towards creation of network infrastructure,” COAI added.

This comes in the backdrop of COAI suggesting the government add OTT communication services in the ambit of the new Telecom Act to “restore a level playing field”.

The letter highlighted how charging OTTs is being talked about across the world.

“The European Commission (EU) is advocating for formalizing of due legislation for OTT players to share the network investment burden of the telecom players in a proportionate manner,” it said. The EU had earlier saidd that big tech companies generate high data traffic but do not invest in building infrastructure.

“In Australia, a world-first law was passed in Feb 2022, aimed at making tech giants pay for news content on their digital platforms,” COAI further said. It also gave an example of the governments of France, Italy, and Spain releasing a joint paper in August requesting a “swift development of legislative proposal” related to the contribution.

To support the MSMEs and small OTT enterprises, COAI said that the charges must be limited to network usage. Business Standard

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