Net Neutrality report: You can make Skype, WhatsApp calls abroad; not within India, industry reacts

The DoT panel report on Net Neutrality says that if you use Skype, Viber, WhatsApp or any other VoIP platform to call your friends or relatives living abroad, then you can continue to do so. VoIP calling abroad will continue to operate as it currently is. Unfortunately, there is a difference in the suggestion by the DoT panel report on domestic VoIP calls.

A lot has been spoken about Net Neutrality already. For most, the primary concern is how it will affect them while using the Internet right now. Although the principle of freedom is at the core of the whole debate, the primary concern of most consumers comes down to how the report and the debate at large would affect them.

Calling your friends/relatives

If you use Skype, Viber, WhatsApp or any other VoIP platform to call your friends or relatives living abroad, then you can continue to do so. VoIP calling abroad will continue to operate as it currently is. Unfortunately, there is a difference in the suggestion by the DoT panel report on domestic VoIP calls. Effectively, it might just be cheaper to call your friend abroad than in the same city. Although the decision is seen by many as the government siding with these apps; in reality, it’s more about safeguarding interests of the telecom industry. Telecom service providers within India have invested heavily in spectrum and the industry believes it is vital to ensure a fair level playing field in the domestic voice market.

Effectively, using OTT services such as WhatsApp, Viber or Skype to place voice calls in the domestic market would hurt the domestic telecom market.

You could message as much as you want

The above differentiation between India and global calls has been made only for voice services. For messaging , the DoT report has emphasised on user’s right to a free internet. It would continue to enable free and fair access to the ability to message domestic or locally using OTT services. So you can continue to use WhatsApp, Skype, or the number of similar services out there to message as much as you want.

Content is king

That’s effectively what the report said, when it commented on Internet.org. According to the report, a telecom service provider discounting data is different from a content service provider offering priority channels of content. So here, the DoT panel has differentiated between Internet.org and Airtel Zero. However, it has created a sense that the panel has sided with Airtel instead of Facebook. The report has later also acknowledged for a legal framework to be put in place.

Privacy is vital

The DoT panel gave out the right kind of signals when it said that the user has a right to privacy, while also acknowledging that currently there is lack of a proper framework to ensure user privacy. The report also added that whenever a legal framework is made in the future, it must incorporate the principles of Net Neutrality.

Two areas where these don’t hold true

National security and managed services are the two areas where your priorities take a back seat. Since these effectively have financial and security implications, the primary measure here is to safeguard issues of national importance. According to the report, the panel’s priority is to protect the government and corporate interests. The message given out is to be responsible. Freedom doesn’t mean you can compromise on national interests. A major concern users have here is this could also be used as a loophole to curb unrestricted use of the Internet. Effectively an enterprise service from a telecom service provider is not accountable to net neutrality principles. Too bad if you're a corporate customer.

You can read the DoT panel report below.

Net Neutrality Committee Report

Various industry bodies have reacted to the report. You can read some of them here.

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