DoT panel wants Skype and What­sapp free calls to end

The DQWeek (Chennai) - - FRONT PAGE - DQW NEWS BUREAU New Delhi, July 16 Visit: for com­ments

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.

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