The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Friday released a consultation paper on regulatory mechanism for over-the-top (OTT) communication services, and selective banning of OTT services, seeking inputs from stakeholders.

“The telecom service providers in India are regulated by several laws, including the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 and the TRAI Act, 1997. The terms and conditions of the Unified License Agreement entered by the TSPs with the Central government are binding upon them. However, presently none of these obligations are applicable to OTT communication service providers,” TRAI said in the paper.

It has sought comments from stakeholders to queries such as what should be the definition of OTT services; hat could be the reasonable classification of OTT services based on an intelligible differentia; provide views on aspects of OTT communication services vis-à-vis licensed telecommunication services in India on regulatory/ economic/ security/ privacy/ safety/ quality of service/ consumer grievance redressal aspects.

Also, what should be the provisions in the licensing/ regulatory framework(s) for OTT communication services in respect of the lawful interception, privacy and security, emergency services, unsolicited commercial communication, customer verification and quality of service, the sector regulator said in the consultation paper.

Collaborative framework

Further, it sought comments on whether there is a need for a collaborative framework between OTT communication service providers and the licensed telecommunication service providers.

In case it is decided to put in place a regulatory framework for selective banning of OTT services in the country which class(es) of OTT services should be covered under selective banning of OTT services, it asked.

The development comes after the Department of Telecommunications, through a letter on September 7, 2022, requested TRAI to reconsider its recommendations on Regulatory Framework for OTT Communication Services dated September 14, 2020, and suggested a suitable regulatory mechanism for OTTs, including issues relating to ‘selective banning of OTT services’ as part of its recommendations.

TRAI has sought the written comments on the issues from the stakeholders by August 4 and counter comments by August 18.

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