Indian watchdog to revisits its position on regulating OTT services

TRAI is reassessing its position on regulating OTT communication services and seeking stakeholder input, reflecting a shift in approach after almost three years, while considering selective bans and the involvement of multiple government entities in the complex landscape of internet service regulation.

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recently taken a new stance on the regulation of over-the-top (OTT) communication services, such as WhatsApp, Zoom, and Google Meet. Despite its initial recommendation against developing a specific regulatory framework for these services, TRAI is now revisiting this position and initiating consultations to explore how these services can be effectively regulated. This reconsideration comes almost three years after its original advice, signalling a shift in TRAI’s approach.

In a consultation paper released on 7 June 2023, TRAI called upon stakeholders to share their insights and proposals regarding the regulation of OTT services. The paper also raises the question of whether selectively banning certain OTT services could be an alternative to completely shutting down the internet. Telecom operators, who have consistently advocated for a “same service, same rules” principle, have long been proponents of regulating these services.

The involvement of multiple government entities in this matter highlights the complexity and interconnectedness of the laws governing internet services. The Department of Telecommunication (DoT), for instance, has also expressed its support for bringing OTT services within its jurisdiction by proposing a licensing framework for them in the draft telecom Bill presented last year.