Trey’s plan for OTT regulation goes beyond telecom for no reason

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) last week released a draft consultation paper on the regulatory framework for OTT (over-the-top) services. There are several issues with this document, from the language obscuring its meaning, to cherry-picking examples of net neutrality while ignoring those who disagree with it. decisions to make recommendations and draw conclusions about costs incurred by telecommunication providers without proper justification.

The problem is that the term OTT, as defined in the document, is broad and refers to all applications and services that can be accessed online, from Gmail to Facebook to news websites like NDTV.com or even apps like Uber. or Foodpanda.

This issue, though important to all Indians, goes beyond simple net neutrality. However, Trey’s guidelines go beyond the telecommunications industry and begin to address things like health, social well-being, and physical business issues. This does not seem to matter in an article aimed at understanding the impact of Internet businesses on telecommunications providers.

(See also: What is net neutrality? Here’s a simple explanation)

You can read the advisory document yourself on the Trai website. The regulator is seeking input from all stakeholders, including consumers like you and me, until April 24, and we encourage our readers to read this article and then send us your comments at advqos@trai.gov. to let your government know what to expect.

(Also see: Who cares about net neutrality in India?)

We read the 118-page document, and while we don’t call ourselves experts on the subject, some passages seemed particularly interesting and seemed completely unrelated to this discussion. We’ve highlighted some of the biggest telecom challenges in the document, but here are some snippets of the project that seem entirely circumstantial.

The argument that internet services are disrupting physical businesses and therefore should be regulated by Trai seems very random. It’s clear that online business is disrupting traditional models. The discounts are worth e-commerce sites around Rs. 1,000 crore in losses and this behavior seems anti-competitive in many ways.

However, these are matters unrelated to telecommunications, which is Trey’s mandate, and have no place in this document. The app should not need a green light from Trai before it can be rolled out in India.

Trai also raises the scary specter of hacking and describes the Internet as a parking lot where a thief hides — scary language that is misleading, and perhaps more importantly, they can’t be blamed for allowing people to access apps and websites. . If Trai does not provide some kind of safety net, the general point of these two points is that we should not have Internet access in India.

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In addition to the parking lot thieves in Trey’s eyes, predators, stalkers, bullies and scammers populate the Internet. Children should avoid file sharing, chat rooms and online games. You may hear someone say, “We didn’t have any Internet when we were kids. If you wanted to play, you went out and had fun.”

Cyberbullying and (talk!) “Sexting” (their quotes, not ours) are the dreaded phrases of the day, made possible by OTT. Of course, it can be said that it is the proliferation of smartphones in the first place, so Trai can issue a mobile license that is required to use a smartphone like a driving license.

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Companies like Ola and Uber are also disrupting the taxi industry and this, Trai says, needs to be regulated. We totally agree. However, taxi companies should be regulated like taxi companies – the companies’ fleets for hire operate very differently from their businesses in the West and are closer to acting like radio taxi fleets than private hire cars.

(See also: Why It’s Wrong to Think of Uber as a Tech Company)

This is a matter for the Transport Department, which is investigating taxi apps, not Trai.

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Trai also believes that consumer protection laws do not apply to e-commerce websites, which is quite surprising. If the site is a seller, why can’t you designate them as a respondent in case of a problem? And in the case of the market model, the seller is always clearly indicated and available at the time of purchase. As recently argued by the Supreme Court of India, just because something is online, the laws of the land should not cease to apply and special laws should not be required for the internet.

(Also see: Bringing Internet Freedom to India)

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Interestingly, while Trai elsewhere in this document complains that OTT services make it difficult for the government to access your data, here it goes so far as to say that it controls Big Data (and not Big Brother). Putting aside the use of the term ‘big data’, this is actually what we agree with Trai – not that OTTs should not collect data, but the government should have regulations to ensure privacy of citizens. The catch is that it must be universal, not something the government can arbitrarily break.

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Here we see Trai worry that tech-savvy thieves will use your GPS information to break into your home while you’re away. As you can see, the Regulator is a bit conflicted because they say these apps can be useful to law enforcement. These are real concerns that need to be discussed, but again, Trai doesn’t seem like the ideal forum to discuss national security issues.

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Cultural sensitivity is a common pitfall in Trey’s draft consultation document. Here, The Regulator talks about how social media was used to send inflammatory photos aimed at Northeastern students in 2012. This is problematic because Trai suggests that we shouldn’t be able to communicate quickly on social platforms that allow us to send messages. spread rapidly in the name of cultural sensibility. In an article whose main premise is that OTT will hurt telecom revenues, this seems like a strong emotional point unrelated to the main argument in the first place.

(See also: net neutrality gets lost in the obscure language of Trey’s draft OTT rules)

These are just a few examples of how the Trai document wants to focus on net neutrality and all non-telecom related issues. While our providers are using a fair usage policy to offer limited plans that they call “unlimited”, Airtel has come up with special rates so Skype calls are not cheaper than voice calls, and billing is often incorrect, never transparent. calling and data services are out of the question, so it seems Trey should look at what the telcos can do instead of trying to help them do nothing new and make more money.

Again, read the newspaper and write to Trai before 24th April. This is for all of us.

All news on the site does not represent the views of the site, but we automatically submit this news and translate it through software technology on the site rather than a human editor.

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