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OTT Communication Apps Should Bear Burden Like License Fee: SP Kochhar, COAI

COAI says OTT players paying licence fee can ease telcos’ contribution to USOF

OTT communication services must be taxed and "should bear some burden like license fees as despite earning from Indian users and networks, their revenue is going outside the country," said SP Kochhar, Director General, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), while speaking to The Economic Times. COAI has three core members – Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea. Kochhar added that such platforms earn money by offering directed advertisements using artificial intelligence, keeping user data at their US-based servers and marketing it in multiple ways. He also said, "Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) pay as much as 38% in taxes and levies as compared to 0% contribution by OTT players". Why it matters: The draft Indian Telecommunication Bill released on 21 September, 2022 has caused quite a stir between telcos and over-the-top (OTT) platforms. One central point of contention is the definition of 'telecommunication services', which includes 'any service of any description which is made available to users by telecommunication', according to the draft telecom bill. This would bring in emails, internet based communication services and OTT communication services, such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Snapchat, and Zoom, under the ambit of telecommunication regulations. COAI has been arguing for 'same service, same rules', whereas Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), a body whose members include the likes of Meta and Google, have argued this would affect their ease of doing business and hurt innovation. SP Kochhar on mandating user identification Kochhar said Jamatra-like cyber frauds could be prevented if apps adhere to KYC (know your customer) norms…

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I cover privacy, surveillance and tech policy. In my reporting, I try my best to present the most relevant facts, and sometimes add in a pinch of my thoughts.

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