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Video: Is It Fair To Ask Online Communication Platforms To Contribute To The USO Fund?

Telcos argue that online communication apps provide similar services as the telecom companies and to do so, they use the infrastructure of the telcos. Hence they should also contribute to the USO fund.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is currently exploring ways to regulate Over-The-Top (OTT) communication services like WhatsApp, Signal, Zoom etc. Telcos, particularly Jio, are pitching that communication platforms must be required to comply with the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund. Universal Service Obligation Fund collects a levy of 5% of telcos’ Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) to improve telecom access in rural and remote areas.

Telcos argue that online communication applications provide similar services as that provided by the traditional telecom companies and to do so, they use the infrastructure of the telcos. Hence, they acted as direct competitors to these telecom companies. This is why, telecom companies believe that communication platforms should contribute to the development of telecom infrastructure. Asking online companies to pay to the USO, is one of the ways to make them contribute to the development of the infrastructure.

Additionally, in their submission to TRAI’s consultation paper, researchers at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) have said, “We propose a Broadband Infrastructure Levy to be applied at 3% of India operations to VNOs [virtual network operators], significant OTT communication service providers and significant OTT video service providers to contribute to the Broadband Infrastructure Fund.”

In this video, MediaNama Editor Nikhil Pahwa discusses whether the demand is justified and what are the key issues that need to be considered.

Watch the video to know more:

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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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