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TRAI told to speed up talks with stakeholders on OTT framework

The Delhi High Court has directed Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to expeditiously hold consultations with stakeholders for giving its recommendations to the union government on the proposed regulatory framework for Over-The-Top (OTT) services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

“Considering the extensive prevalence and use of internet telephony, TRAI would expeditiously conduct this stakeholders’ consultation and give its recommendations accordingly,” Justice Prathiba M Singh said in an order.

The court was dealing with a plea moved by World Phone Internet Services Pvt. Ltd alleging that while companies like them have to pay license fees for internet services including internet telephony, platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are not regulated and do not pay any amount to the government.

The Department of Telecommunications in response told the court that TRAI’s recommendation suggesting that the regulatory framework for Over-The-Top (OTT) services is not required, has not been accepted. The court was also told that the Digital Communications Commission in its 19th meeting on July 26 had referred the matter back to TRAI to suggest a suitable regulatory mechanism for OTT.

The Centre further said TRAI has been asked to re-examine the matter. In the letter dated September 07, the Centre said that “in view of the humongous growth of OTT services in the recent past and these services having reached a matured stage, there is a need to holistically look into the various aspects of these services including regulatory, economic, security, privacy and safety aspects”.

The TRAI has been asked by the government to reconsider its recommendations on Regulatory Framework for Over-The-Top (OTT) Communication Services’ dated 14.09.2020 and suggest a suitable regulatory mechanism for OTTs, including issues relating to “selective banning of OTT services” as part of its recommendations in accordance with the provisions of section 11 of TRAI Act 1997, as amended in 2000.

The court was dealing with a plea moved by World Phone Internet Services Pvt. Ltd alleging that while companies like them have to pay license fees for internet services including internet telephony, platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are not regulated and do not pay any amount to the government.

The Department of Telecommunications in response told the court that TRAI’s recommendation suggesting that the regulatory framework for Over-The-Top (OTT) services is not required, has not been accepted. The court was also told that the Digital Communications Commission in its 19th meeting on July 26 had referred the matter back to TRAI to suggest a suitable regulatory mechanism for OTT.

The Centre further said TRAI has been asked to re-examine the matter. In the letter dated September 07, the Centre said that “in view of the humongous growth of OTT services in the recent past and these services having reached a matured stage, there is a need to holistically look into the various aspects of these services including regulatory, economic, security, privacy and safety aspects”.

The TRAI has been asked by the government to reconsider its recommendations on Regulatory Framework for Over-The-Top (OTT) Communication Services’ dated 14.09.2020 and suggest a suitable regulatory mechanism for OTTs, including issues relating to “selective banning of OTT services” as part of its recommendations in accordance with the provisions of section 11 of TRAI Act 1997, as amended in 2000. LiveLaw

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