Here’s why your Whatsapp and viber calls might be charged in sometime


It’s time for both start ups and consumers to get equally alarmed as the high level committee appointed by the government has supported the concept of net neutrality. If things get on place, calling international numbers from apps like WhatsApp, Skype and Viber wouldn’t be free anymore. However, international messaging services will be free as it is.

Supporting the move, the committee’s report said, the voice calls made using internet don’t abide by any regulations where as the telecom providers have to follow license norms.

Although a little sketchy on what it actually meant to convey on zero rating concept, the report by the committee prescribes that “zero-rating platforms be treated on a case-by-case basis and clearance sought from telecom regulator Trai”, as per a news report by The Economic Times. This is an alarming move as the cash rich business would be able to invest in internet, whereas startups would find it difficult to achieve a well balanced web presence.

Another suggestion by the committee - that zero-rating platforms be treated on a case-by-case basis and clearance sought from telecom regulator Trai - opens up the worrying possibility of discrimination in favour of established, cash-rich internet application providers. This could potentially stifle innovation and kill the burgeoning start-up culture in the country. On the positive side, it did not recommend any regulatory controls for fast-growing over-the-top (OTT) services that deliver varied internet applications.

The committee points out that "India is the land of the Buddha, who preached the middle path". But in its effort to follow his philosophy, the report may end up satisfying nobody - something the six-member DoT panel is probably aware of. So, the over 100-page report says, "The committee unhesitatingly recommends that the core principles of net neutrality must be adhered to", but then qualifies: "Clearly, the debate on Net Neutrality is multi-dimensional and solution to this cannot therefore be unidimensional."

As per the ET news report, the report calls for VoIP services to be licenced in the same way as mobile operators are. This could mean that such service providers will eventually have to pay a licence fee, which could force them to start charging customers money for use of their services.

"The committee reiterates its view that domestic OTT communication services (or rather internet telephony) should be regulated through exercise of licencing powers available under section 4 of the Indian Telegraph Act to ensure a level playing field," says the report.
However, the breather goes that the govt will study the report and then get an approval from TRAI and decide on the fate. You can share your suggestions with govt on the issue on atmygov.in.

"OTT service providers are as much bound by the laws of India like any other business operating in the country. Additional regulatory frameworks would be excessive, and hinder the growth of the OTT service industry. The growth of the Internet and the economy that is linked to it is due to the level playing field that the medium provides and the opportunity for permission-less innovation. What the country needs at this stage is to promote Indian enterprise and not to shackle it with licenses and more regulations," believes Prasanth Sugathan of SFLC, a legal firm that deals on digital freedom.


While internet browsing may remain unaffected , the committee has advised on keeping a check on rampant misuse. It says that traffic management by telecom and internet service providers should be transparent and "improper (paid or otherwise) prioritization may not be permitted.,” states the news report by the financial daily.

Facebook’s tying up with Reliance India and providing free internet access in remotest part of the country through internet.org, which was seen as a threat to internet freedom by experts, have got a nod from committee.

"... 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. Collaborations between telecom service providers and content providers that enable such gatekeeping role to be played by any entity should be actively discouraged. If need be, Government and the regulator may step in to restore balance to ensure that the internet continues to remain an open and neutral platform for expression and innovation," says the report.

The committee did not recommend any controls for the fast-mushrooming internet applications that are proliferating the online mobile world. "Over-the-top application services have been traditionally available in the market for some time and such services enhance consumer welfare and increase productivity. Therefore, such services should be actively encouraged and any impediments in expansion and growth of OTT application services should be removed."

(Image: India Times)
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