New Delhi: An official panel on net neutrality has proposed regulation of domestic calls on Internet-based apps like Skype, Whatsapp and Viber by putting them on par with services offered by telecom operators, a recommendation that came under immediate attack from industry bodies.
The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) Committee opposed platforms like Facebook's Internet.Org that allow access to certain websites without mobile data charges, while suggesting that similar plans by Bharti Airtel be allowed with prior clearance from TRAI.
However, the committee suggested liberal approach to app-based international calls.
"In the case of Over-The-Top (OTT) VoIP international calling services, a liberal approach may be adopted. However, in the case of domestic calls (local and national), communication services by TSPs (telecom service providers) and OTT communication services may be treated similarly from a regulatory angle for the present.
The Committee is chaired by DoT Advisor for Technology A K Bhargava and members in the panel include A K Mittal, V Umashankar, Shashi Ranjan Kumar, G Narendra Nath and R M Agarwal.
Net neutrality implies that equal treatment be accorded to all Internet traffic and no priority be given to an entity or company based on payment to content or service providers such as telecom companies, which is seen as discriminatory.
The neutrality debate flared up in India after telecom operator Airtel launched a platform, Airtel Zero, that would allow free access of some websites on its network. However, the companies were asked to pay Airtel for joining the platform.
IT sector body Nasscom reacted strongly saying recommendation for regulating only domestic internet based calls will lead to breach of privacy and will be tough to monitor compliance.
Telecom Watchdog demanded sacking of Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad saying the panel report was a "protectionist policy for the incumbent telecom service providers" and anti-consumer.