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Indian government (once again) looking to regulate WhatsApp, Google Meet, and other internet calling apps

DoT has sought the views of the TRAI to develop a framework for regulating internet calling and messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram

What's the news: The Department of Telecom (DoT) has sought the views of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to develop a framework for regulating internet calling and messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Google Meet, Business Line reported on August 31. Why does this matter: If new regulations are introduced, internet messaging and calling apps will be subject to the same or similar standards that traditional operators like Airtel and Jio are subject to, which is what the latter want, but this could harm innovation and competition in the internet telephony space. Further, these apps argue that they are already subject to the IT Act and IT Rules, and additional regulations will overburden them. "Same service same rules": Telecom operators have been asking the government to apply the principle of 'same service same rules' by subjecting internet calling and messaging apps to licence fees, legal interception, quality of service etc, as is applicable to telecom operators and internet service providers (ISPs). Not TRAI's first attempt at regulating this sector: TRAI in November 2018 issued a paper titled "Regulatory Framework for OTT Communication Services" seeking the regulation of internet apps in India. However, the framework received pushback from industry bodies including the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM). MediaNama had also submitted its feedback on the proposed rules after holding discussions with various stakeholders. Eventually, TRAI in September 2020 ruled out the need for any such regulation at the time but kept the…

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