The government is of the view that once a consensus on the issue is reached, a mechanism can be formed to decide the extent of such charges, as per a report
The COAI has demanded that OTT communication service providers pay a network usage charge to telecom operators
Industry body IAMAI has been opposing the revenue sharing proposal, calling it a ‘covert attempt’ to dilute net neutrality in India
Amid the ongoing war of words between the telecom companies and over-the-top (OTT) communication players on imposition of usage charges on the latter, the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) is reportedly likely to invite both the parties for a joint discussion on the issue.
The government is of the view that once a consensus on the issue is reached, a mechanism can be formed to decide the extent of such charges, Business Standard reported.
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents major telecom operators such as Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, and Vodafone Idea, earlier said that OTT communication service providers should pay a network usage charge to the telecom service providers (TSPs).
Meanwhile, the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) opposed this revenue sharing proposal, calling it a ‘covert attempt’ to dilute net neutrality in India. It said that the revenue sharing model would be a death knell for the digital economy and the creative ecosystem which it sustains.
A few days after the IAMAI’s comment, the COAI reiterated its stand and said that the demand to levy a reasonable ‘usage fee’ on OTT communication service providers is ‘fair and rational’.
As the issue will have far-reaching implications, the government is of the view that it merits a joint discussion. However, the government is not trying to create a consensus on the issue and mediate between two groups, an official was quoted as saying in the report.
“The department will take a call as per established norms of stakeholder consultations,” the official added.
The development comes at a time when the government is aggressively pushing to regulate the digital space and players. Last year, it introduced the much-awaited draft Telecommunication Bill, 2022 to replace the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 and the Telegraph Wires Act, 1950, as well as to overhaul the existing norms and frameworks for OTT players and the telecom space.
The TSPs have been demanding the same norms for the OTT communication apps as for them. The telecom operators claim that the OTT players ride free on their network infrastructure without paying any fee for it.
Meanwhile, the DoT has also sought recommendations from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to set up a legal framework for OTT apps. The industry watchdog is expected to soon come out with a consultation paper on the issue.