Telcos want OTTs regulated

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 2/18/2021 12:27:23 PM

NEW DELHI, Feb 17: The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the industry body of telecom operators like Vodafone Idea, Reliance Jio and Airtel, has shot off a letter to Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash to bring OTTs (Over-the-top) communication players like Netflix and Amazon Prime under regulations similar to those imposed on them to ensure a level playing field.
It has sought otherwise relaxations of the regulatory obligations on the operators and not enforce the new norms such as Traffic Management Practices (TMP) for net neutrality.
The letter points out the policy disparities, noting that the OTT apps do not have any obligation to ensure privacy, while Telcos are required to adhere to strict conditions on confidentiality and protection of privacy in communication.
Citing the recent example of WhatsApp changing the privacy policy of users, it said the OTTs totally compromise the privacy of the consumers as they can share complete data of users with any other company.
The industry body also pointed out the disparity in security parameters between the two sets of players. For instance, telcos need to set up a Lawful Interception and Monitoring (LIM) system at a huge cost, and help agencies in tracing malicious calls, messages or communications transported through equipment and networks.
OTT players on the other hand are not required to set up any such LIM systems, COAI said. “Confidentiality and privacy of user data is not ensured as data centers are located outside the country... OTTs are not even providing encryption keys to security agencies. OTT communication services are being grossly misused by anti-social elements at present as there are no arrangements for monitoring.”
Only on Tuesday, the Centre told the Supreme Court that it is contemplating to regulate the OTTs, but Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde asked it to reveal the exact regulations instead of talking about its intentions.
Some other disparities pointed out by COAI are:
-- Strict requirement of the telcos to have their equipment, switches and servers located within India while OTTs have no such regulatory obligations;
-- Telcos have to provide security agencies all tracing facilities, but the privacy of user data not ensured by OTTs since their data centres are located outside the country; and
-- Telcos have to get security clearance of all foreign personnel deployed, while OTTs are not even providing encryption keys to the security agencies.



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