The network service providers buy spectrum from the government and lay down infrastructure involving huge costs running into thousands of crores of rupees. The over the top applications like WhatsApp and Skype are offering VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), Video Calls, Text etc. to the customers and they are earning good revenues. It seems like they are eating out the revenues of service providers. Hence, the service providers called for separate charges on these over the top applications.
The service providers are coming up with new offers like “zero rating”, where only certain websites are offered for free.
The above two issues are against net neutrality, which essentially means that internet should be neutral to the content that is flowing through the networks. That means, service providers who maintain the network infrastructure should not discriminate the content in the internet.
The committee had unequivocally said that principles of net neutrality have to be complied with.
The report said that specific over the top applications dealing with messaging only should not be interfered with through regulatory mechanisms. All the other OTT apps can be regulated.
The over the top apps claim that they do not come under the jurisdiction of Indian laws since most of their servers are located outside India. Though it is true, various other countries such as US, EU, South Korea etc. have legislations which bring the OTT apps under their national laws if such apps provide services to their citizens, though their servers are located in far off places.
The OTT apps are increasingly becoming a threat to national security since they are largely unregulated.
There is a need for legal framework to regulate the service providers to protect net neutrality. Since it takes a long time to frame a legal document, in the interim, necessary conditions can be inserted into the licenses given to the service operators to maintain minimum common standards required for net neutrality.
The DoT report highlights the importance of national security and integrity and at no point of time it should not be compromised for the sake of net neutrality. In this context, India can take few steps that China has taken recently in the Cyber Security Law.
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