DoT panel wants Skype and Whatsapp free calls to end
Voice-calling facility on platforms such as Skype and WhatsApp may be forced to go paid as a committee appointed by the Department of Telecom has recommended bringing such applications under a licensing regime.
The committee, which went into issues governing Net neutrality, was of the opinion that since traditional telecom companies offer voice telephony services under a regulatory regime with various fees and charges, Internet-based voice calling applications have an advantage if they are not subjected to the same conditions.
The panel said non-voice mobile applications, called over-the-top (OTT) services, such as text messaging and social media platforms like Google, Twitter and Yahoo should not be put under any regulations.
The panel also made three other key recommen- dations. It said that content and application providers cannot be permitted to act as gatekeepers and use network operations to extract value, even if it is for an ostensible public purpose.
This has ramifications for Facebook’s Internet. org platform, under which the social media company partnered with telecom companies to offer free access to a set of websites. In India, Facebook has a partnership with Reliance Communications to offer free access to about 30 websites.
The DoT panel observed that such platforms violate the principles of non-discriminatory access from a user view-point. “Collaborations between telecom service providers and content providers that enable such gate-keeping role to be played by any entity should be actively discouraged,” the committee report said.
The panel, however, did not take a view on the zero-rating plan introduced by Airtel, leaving it to TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) to decide whether it was against the principles of Net neutrality. A zero platform allows users to access applications and service without any data charge. The start-ups and e-commerce companies pay Airtel for the data consumed by the users.