The Department of Telecom has formed a panel to examine economic impact of implementation of net-neutrality principle on the sector, following some operators bid to charge extra for voice call services like Skype and Viber. Net-neutrality principle says that access to Internet or any Internet-based service should be without any barrier or discrimination.
A six-member committee formed under Telecom Commission Member A K Bhargava has been asked to "examine pursuit of net neutrality from public policy objective, its advantages and limitations", sources said. The committee has been asked to examine economic impact on the telecom sector that arises from the existence of a "regulated telecom services sector and unregulated content and applications sector, including over-the-top services."
Telecom operators have been asking the government to bring over-the-top (OTT) players like Skype, WhatsApp, Viber under regulation as they are making a dent in their revenues. OTT players facilitate their users to make calls or send voice and video messages through Internet for free. OTT subscribers are only required to pay for Internet data consumed for using the service.
The DoT has asked the committee "to examine overall policy, regulatory and technical responses in the light of examination and assessment of the issues in the first three terms of reference," a source said. The move comes a month after telecom major Bharti Airtel came up with a scheme to charge separately for Internet -based voice calls provided by mobile applications like Skype, Viber and Line.
There was a huge public outcry on the social media against these charges. The company, after meeting telecom regulator TRAI, decided to defer its scheme. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is expected to come up with a consultation paper to examine level playing that can be created between OTT and telecom operators.
Also, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad last week said that net-neutrality was important and views of all stakeholders would be taken for evolving a governance model for the web.