In an open house discussion on the TRAI Consultation paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-Top (OTT) services, which was organized by the Internet and Mobile Association of India [IAMAI] today, it was unanimously agreed that the industry needs less regulation as it could cripple tech entrepreneurship and application development, which has recently started to flourish in India. The Open House discussion was attended by representatives from Internet companies, Telcos, Think-Tank and various media houses.
The forum was of the view that low barriers to entry will allow entrepreneurs and start-ups to design and market innovative products and services, which will benefit the Indian consumers. Moreover, any regulatory registration or licensing is likely to increase costs and limit the ability of such entrepreneurs to devise innovative products and business models.
A general misconception has always existed that Internet services and platforms are completely unregulated and operate in the absence of legal requirements. On the contrary, the House was of the unanimous view that companies providing communications service are already under the purview of the IT Act and, if operating in India, they do have to comply with various provisions of the IT Act and international treaties in maintaining records, logs etc. Under the circumstances, to bring in more regulation would be counterproductive to innovation and investments in this sector.
The House agreed that a policy of forbearance on regulation should be continued in order to avoid hurting growth in the sector and ensuring that access to any content on the internet is not blocked, degraded or discriminated, while at the same time permitting Telcos to avail themselves of fair market opportunities and impetus to reduce congestion and invest in infrastructure.
The House also agreed that in principal and practice, Internet should be free and that users and subscribers should have the right to access content without barriers to connectivity being imposed by the carriers of the data, such as the creation of Internet fast lanes. As such, TRAI should recognize this and undertake to safeguard it by limiting any regulatory interference.