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Light touch regulation for OTT communication apps

OTT, or over the top, communication apps such as Whatsapp, Signal, Telegram and others that may provide voice or video calling would fall under the ambit of the draft telecom bill but through a light-touch regulation.

Telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Friday that OTT apps were already included under regulation as an interpretation of telegraph which came from the Indian Telegraph Act.

“As far as possible, we have to make a light touch regulatory environment which does not hamper innovation or introduce a big regulatory burden on anyone but we will keep protection of users in the focus in the bill,” the minister said, adding that regulation will be stringent only when deemed essential.

The government has proposed to broaden the definition of telecommunication services to include OTT communication services, internet-based communication services and broadcasting services among others in the draft telecom bill, which industry watchers said could mean that OTT players would have to take licenses, share revenue with the government and be treated to same rules as telecom service providers. afyon escort

The minister said the government would consider inputs from stakeholders in this regard during the consultation process before drafting the final bill.

He added that the bill is expected to become a law within six to 10 months. “We’re not in a hurry on this,” he said.

The minister also said that the bill was the first step in the direction of introducing a comprehensive legal framework in which the second step will be the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, followed by the Digital India Bill.

Stressing on protection of users as the fundamental element of the bill, the minister said that KYC norms for calls on OTT apps were required to ensure prevention of cyber fraud and providing identification of the caller. In case where KYC information is not available, for instance internet based calls, the government will hold technical and legal consultations with the industry to find a resolution.

“All the technical consultations will be taken up with the industry. We expect a significant drop in cyber fraud with the introduction of this bill,” he said.

He added that this will strengthen KYC norms as well as protection of users from frauds via spam calls or messages.

The bill proposes to grant the government the ability to intercept messages beaming through internet-powered communication services, to which the minister said the provision existed earlier as well. He, however, clarified that decryption of a service will not be sought. “There is no question of decryption,” he said.

The bill also proposes that government can have the power to waive fee, interest, additional charges, penalty or grant exceptions from the provisions of the bill once it becomes an Act. The minister said that the circumstances would have to be justifiable to give waivers or exceptions.

“The enabling framework for resolving any distress in the sector has to be clearly thought through and clearly justifiable circumstances. If something happens which is a once in 20-year scenario, law must be able to give a clear framework to go forward and to give you that option,” Vaishnaw said.

The bill also states that in case of defaults in payments, the government can defer the payment, convert it into shares, write it off, or provide relief of full or part of the amount, provided it can determine an extraordinary circumstance of financial stress, consumer interest, maintaining competition in the sector, or reliability and continued supply of services. LiveMint

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