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Telecom Minister Announces Positive Developments for WhatsApp, Telegram, and Other Platforms

IT and Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has clarified that over-the-top (OTT) players or apps will not fall under the purview of the new Telecom Bill. Instead, these apps will continue to be regulated by the existing IT Act of 2000. The minister’s statement comes in response to concerns raised by some app makers regarding the potential impact of the Telecom Bill on OTT platforms.

The Telecom Bill, recently passed by both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, is now awaiting presidential assent to become law. The legislation is set to replace the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885, the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933, and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act of 1950. While the bill introduces significant changes to the regulatory framework for the telecommunications sector, it does not extend its scope to OTT platforms.

In a statement to The Economic Times, Minister Vaishnaw emphasized that OTT platforms are currently regulated by the IT Act of 2000 and will continue to be governed by this legislation. This clarification aims to allay concerns expressed by some app makers who feared that the terms used in the new Telecom Bill, such as ‘telecommunication services,’ ‘messages,’ and ‘telecommunications identifier,’ could potentially apply to OTT platforms.




New telecom law will apply to WhatsApp, Signal, others | Mint
New telecom law will apply to WhatsApp, Signal, others

Last week, Shivnath Thukral, Director and Head of India Public Policy at Meta, reportedly raised concerns about the Telecom Bill in an internal email to colleagues. The bill passed by Parliament did not explicitly reference OTT platforms, leading to uncertainty about whether these platforms would be included in the regulatory framework.

The Telecom Bill grants the government the authority to intercept and disclose messages to investigative agencies in an “intelligible format” and establishes encryption standards. This has raised concerns about the potential impact on end-to-end encrypted messaging services, including those offered by Signal and WhatsApp.

The Broadband India Forum (BIF), an industry body with members such as Amazon, Google, Meta, Netflix, and OneWeb, welcomed the clarification provided by Minister Vaishnaw. The BIF stated that clarity on the regulatory status of OTT platforms will contribute to increased internet and broadband penetration, providing significant momentum to the growth of the digital economy.

As the Telecom Bill awaits presidential assent, the industry and stakeholders will closely monitor its implementation and the specific regulatory implications for telecommunications and OTT platforms in India.

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