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128 Indian Startups Write Letter To TRAI To Support Net Neutrality As per the letter, the demand to impose licensing and cost obligations on OTTs is directly at odds with the Government of India's Startup India initiative

By Teena Jose

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Around 128 Indian startup founders have signed a letter petitioning the government in support of Net Neutrality, arguing that "any move towards overregulation of internet services or Over-The-Top (OTT) services, may have discriminatory consequences." The startups wrote a letter to TRAI chairman P.D. Vaghela cautioned against overregulation of internet services.

"Internet applications and services are vibrant, dynamic, and innovative, and are rapidly evolving. Most services provide multiple functions and services to users, thus categorising them as 'substitute' services, or segmenting them as messaging, video and other applications, is incorrect. This simplistic understanding may stem from the use of the term 'OTT', a terminology predominantly used by TSPs. We urge TRAI to understand that the regulatory difference between TSPs and internet applications/ service providers do not requisite an intervention, especially because there are inherent structural and functional differences between the two," the letter mentioned.

It further added, in context of the recent demands of the TSPs and its implications for the economy, we urge TRAI to further strengthen the principles outlined in the 2016 Regulations, rather than dilute it.

TRAI had in February, 2016, issued the Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016, by which it restricted the charging discriminatory prices to consumers based on the content. This regulation saw the support of several startups back in 2016, who asked for TRAI's continued support for Net Neutrality.

Moreover, the startups showed concerns about the potential discrimination, non-level playing fields, entry barriers, and increased compliance burdens that could result from the proposed regulatory framework.

"If anything, these obligations will favour large multinational conglomerates who can afford to adapt to such regulations. Giving TSPs the key to be able to control these factors will very likely impact the thriving Indian start-up ecosystem," the letter noted.

Further, it said the demand to impose licensing and cost obligations on OTTs is directly at odds with the Government of India's Startup India initiative.

"These initiatives aren't complete without the support for Net Neutrality – a principle that assures telecom or internet service providers don't discriminate for or against online apps and services, on the basis of availability, speed, or cost of access, leaving that choice to the end user alone," the letter read.

"We call for the internet to be maintained as an open platform on which network providers treat all content, application, and services equally, without discrimination. This includes not putting a service at a competitive disadvantage, either by imposing additional network fees or other regulatory obligations such as licensing under a telecommunications framework," the founders argued.

Teena Jose

News Desk Reporter with Entrepreneur India

Teena is a post graduate in financial journalism. She has an avid interest in content creation, digital media and fashion.
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