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Views: Is the Telecom Bill truly as progressive as Internet Body IAMAI thinks?

The Internet and Mobile Association of India called the recently tabled Bill “progressive” since internet companies have been “decisively” kept out of the ambit of the final version of the Bill. Does this ‘absence’ of OTT services from the bill hold water?

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) welcomed the Telecommunication Bill which was tabled in Lok Sabha on December 18, calling it “progressive” since internet companies have been “decisively” kept out of the ambit of the final version of the Bill. First released and put up for consultation in 2022, the telecommunication bill sets down a framework for internet restrictions and interception of messages, and also brings over-the-top (OTT) communication services under a licensing regime. IAMAI, along with many others, is against the regulation of OTT communication services, as is evident in its response to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s consultation on the regulation of OTT communication services. In its press release on the Telecom Bill, IAMAI says that it had recommended that the ambit of the Bill be limited to the network layer, that is, focus on telecom companies instead of bringing in OTT services under regulation. While the association may think this has happened, we disagree. MediaNama’s take: The 2023 version of the bill notably lacks the mention of OTT services as well as other online services (like email). But just the absence of the term “OTT” doesn’t mean that online services wouldn't find their way into the bill. A message has been defined as “any sign, signal, writing, text, image, sound, video, data stream, intelligence or information sent through telecommunication,” under the bill. This definition can include messages sent through online services as well because these too travel over the telecom infrastructure. While it is…

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