The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a consultation paper discussing regulatory mechanisms for Over-The-Top (OTT) communication services and the selective banning of OTT services on July 7. This paper is the next step in the many attempts TRAI has made over the years to regulate these services. It addresses a back-dated reference by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) from 2022 which asked TRAI to reconsider the lack of regulation for messaging and calling applications and also asked it to recommend a policy for the selective banning of OTT services during periods of unrest/crisis that are likely to be used by terrorists/anti-national elements. What are OTT services? In its consultation paper, TRAI defines OTT as an “application accessed and delivered over the public Internet that may be a direct technical/ functional substitute for traditional international telecommunication services.” It mentioned Skype, Whatsapp, and Telegram as examples of OTT services. It mentions that according to the DoT Committee Report on Net Neutrality (May 2015), OTT services can be classified into— OTT communication services: Ones that provide real-time person-to-person telecommunication services, similar to those provided by traditional telecom companies (telecom service providers also called TSPs - these include companies like Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vi). TRAI says that these services “compete with the services provided by TSPs riding on the infrastructure created by TSPs.” OTT application services: All other OTT services, such as broadcasting and gaming (to name a new), offer services using the network infrastructure created by telecom companies but not…
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