India’s regulators work in mysterious ways. Take the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which has suddenly decided that it wants to regulate internet services. As its name clearly suggests, TRAI’s job is to regulate the telecommunications industry. These are the companies that own and operate the “pipes”, like fibre-optic cables, towers, base stations, satellite transponders, undersea cables, switches and networks. TRAI also regulates companies that provide some basic services that run on these “pipes”, namely telephony and internet.
Like its counterparts around the world, it does not, thankfully, regulate services that run on these “basic” services. That’s why you don’t need to apply for a license when you set up a website or launch an app.
Looking at TRAI’s ‘Consultation Paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-Top (OTT) Communication Service’ that closed Monday, I’m left wondering just why would it want to introduce a digital licence-permit raj by asking whether “over the top” (OTT) services ought to be regulated, and if so, which ones and how.