In a move than can end the free regime for domestic calls made through Internet messenger services such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype, a high-level panel has suggested that they be benchmarked against regular telecom service providers for tariff and regulation.
Yet, it has said that communication services offered by them dealing with messaging should not be interfered with through regulatory instruments. “For these application services, there is no case for prescribing regulatory oversight similar to conventional communication services,” it said. “Under existing telecom licensing conditions, Internet telephony is permitted under restricted conditions. But pricing the arbitrage of OTT (over-the-top) domestic voice communication services has the potential of significantly disrupting existing telecom revenue models,” the panel said.
“The existence of a regulatory arbitrage, in addition to the pricing arbitrage, adds a degree of complexity that requires a graduated and calibrated public policy response to bring about a level playing field,” said the committee that was asked to look at the whole gamut of net neutrality. The panel, comprising senior officials of the telecom department, said the tariff plans offered by telecom and Internet service providers must conform to the government’s principles of net neutrality, and the the watchdog asked to examine the tariffs in accordance with the stated objectives.