The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is organizing a seminar on regulatory framework for online services next week, in Delhi. According to a notice on TRAI’s website, “The seminar will have three major sessions as mentioned below:-
Session 1: New Developments in OTT
Session 2: Impact of OTT on TSPs and their counter measures
Session 3: Legal and Regulatory framework for OTT”

OTT, or Over-The-Top, is how the telecom operators (dispargingly) refer to Internet based services, like Whatsapp, Google, YouTube, Yahoo, Sony LIV, Gaana, Viber, among others etc.

Regulation of OTT services was a part of the five point agenda pushed by the telecom lobbying group COAI when the NDA government came to power, and it’s surprising to see the TRAI this topic take up so quickly.

Our stand

In our opinion, there should be no regulation of online services, and this has implications for access to content and knowledge, as well as the freedom of expression. An entity that pays a telecom operator will end up getting preferential treatment (bandwidth, discounts on data costs) over one who doesn’t. Neutrality of access is critical for the growth of services, and telecom operators have spoken about wanting to convert mobile based Internet access into a Data VAS situation. Read:

Airtel Looking To Shift To Content-Based Data Plans
On Telecom vs Internet in a post WhatsApp Voice scenario
“We Are Moving Out Of Data, Moving Into Internet” – Uninor CEO On Its Facebook & Whatsapp Deal
– Indian telecom operators want government help in killing net neutrality

Net Neutrality simplified

To understand the implications, watch John Oliver’s taken on this issue of Net Neutrality.

Note: We wrote to TRAI requesting permission attend. We’ve received an invite, and will be attending.