TRAI’s consultation paper on OTT has raised a storm of protests by those who see it as an attempt to shackle a fledgling industry. Along with the ongoing debate around net neutrality, the OTT industry feels that the last thing needed in India is more rules for internet companies.
One of the major concerns that OTT players have expressed is that by bringing in more laws for start-up internet companies will slow down the rapid growth that is being seen in recent years. Another fear is that it will directly lead to, what many OTT operators are calling “creation of monopolies and oligopolies” on the internet.
For example, one OTT operator we spoke with said that a certain framework was definitely required and was necessary for growth of any industry. However, he also opined that this might not be the best time to bring in regulations as it would create difficulties for start-ups to operate. The issue has become more complicated since it also has a bearing on the neutrality of the internet and given the massive public interest in the matter, one gets the feeling that most operators and digital companies are being very careful of what they say on the matter. Certain OTT operators we spoke with appreciated TRAI trying to get inputs from all stakeholders, while others spoke about the need to reject the TRAI consultations.
Echoing the thoughts of the majority of OTT operators, Ravi Bhushan, VP of Spuul Global said, “I think first you regulate piracy before regulating us. TRAI has mentioned that in their consultation paper and I think we cannot agree more, let me just put it that way. Do we need regulation? I think it is at a very nascent stage, it just about got started and it is too early to get some regulation in this stage.”
He pointed out that though telcos are feeling threatened and hence pushing for regulation, they are being narrow-minded about revenue opportunities. “SMS is completely wiped out as a source of income, soon with WhatsApp voice calling that will also affect them. But there are so many other areas that telcos can benefit like the whole mobile wallet is a huge enabler. That is something they can innovate on. The fact that they can make it so much easier for people like us to advertise. They have so much data on end consumers that could really help from an advertising perspective,” he opined.
Tripti Lochan, CEO of VML , also supported the concept of OTT freedom saying that it would create a level playing field for everyone. “It’s about a very simple fundamental principle-----equality.”
With the deadline for inputs coming up on April 24, it will be interesting to see what most of the industry thinks about the matter.