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Why Not Do Away With All IPTV Regulations In India?

The Indian government will eventually face a situation wherein its policy of needing permission for offering IPTV in the country will be made redundant by increases in bandwidth, which already allows consumers to use devices and applications to watch TV online; so why not go the distance and throw all conditions and regulations related to IPTV out the window? What’s the point of this over-regulation that tries to control one form of delivery of content over Internet Protocol, while others fall outside the purview?

We’re in a strange situation: Telecom companies with Unified Access Service Licensees, Cellular Mobile Telephone Service Licensees, Basic Service Licensees, Cable Operators and ISPs with net worth of more than Rs. 100 crores and “having permission from the licensor to provide IPTV”, are permitted to provide IPTV services; none of the IPTV service providers have been successful in India; at the same time, in its recommendations on Telecom Infrastructure Policy in India (pdf), the telecom regulator TRAI has only one short sighted recommendation to offer on IPTV to the Indian government –

The Authority recommends that the present condition of minimum net worth of Rs. 100 crore for an ISP to provide IPTV services should be done away with.

In our opinion, the regulator and the government need a reality check – the company with maximum subscribers to TV content over Internet Protocol in India is not Aksh Optifibre, MyWay or IOL Netcom (do they still offer IPTV services?) working with mobile or wireline operators, but an applications company – Apalya.

Competing with them is another application – Mundu TV – which I’ve been using for a few days on my iPad. Slingbox yesterday began retailing separately in India, and it gives access to HD content from the Internet. Airtel, which also has IPTV services, recently began offering TV over IP to its own broadband customers, without needing a license to do so. So many content aggregators and channels anyway offer access to TV streaming online – Indiatimes* and YouTube are streaming the IPL, ESPNStar reported record numbers for the Cricket World Cup streaming, and I can access all of this content on my TV using my PS3, which connects with my wireline broadband connection over WiFi. They didn’t need licenses to offer TV online, so what’s the point of having “permissions” or licenses linkages for what is essentially TV streaming over IP? For the end consumer, the only difference is the quality of connectivity that the broadband pipe offers, and that IPTV has storage for time-shift-tv. Otherwise, IPTV is a limited form of Internet, for the end consumer.

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Digital content is ubiquitous; it’s like water – it takes the shape of the platform it is delivered on, and it’s time the government stopped creating artificial roadblocks for content delivery over IP on platforms just to make money from licenses, when a Universal Access Service License should suffice for broadband delivery, whatever the content. Content will be delivered, with or without license, and it’s the licensees who will face regulatory issues, and pointless costs.

Okay, rant over. If you disagree, do leave a comment.

*Disclosure: Indiatimes is an advertiser with MediaNama

Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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