New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has sought views whether WhatsApp, Skype, and Viber should be regulated owing to security concerns. Services and supporters of net neutrality have opposed this move.

In a paper that was released on Monday, the TRAI invited views from the industry regarding which of these apps should be regarded as providing the same services as mobile phone operators.

“The Authority has chosen in this consultation to focus only on regulatory issues and economic concerns pertaining to such OTT services as can be regarded the same or similar to the services provided by TSPs (telecom service providers),” Trai said in the paper. 

“This consultation paper seeks to analyse and discuss the implications of the growth of OTT services as can be regarded the same or similar to the services provided by TSPs, the relationship between TSPs and OTT players, whether any change is required in the current regulatory framework and the manner in which such changes should be effected, if any,” it said. 

These are the regulator’s top concerns:

• Which OTT (over-the-top) services would be considered similar to services provided by telephone companies?

• Is “regulatory or licensing imbalance” hurting telecom network investments?

• Do OTTs need to be regulated at all?

• Should “substitutability” be the main criterion for comparison of regulatory or licensing rules applicable to TSPs and OTT service providers?

• Would interoperability among OTT services and with telecoms promote competition and benefit users?

Prasanth Sugathan, legal director at the Software Freedom Law Centre and an advocate of a free internet said, “OTTs are currently regulated as per the provisions of the Information Technology Act and tax laws, among others. Regulators should be careful that proposed laws do not end up affecting the Open Internet as we know it”.

The industry has until December 10 to give its views and December 24 to submit counter-comments.