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Telecom minister has ‘good news’ for WhatsApp, Telegram and others – Times of India

While it was certain that over-the-top (OTT) players or apps will not be under the ambit of the new Telecom Bill, IT and Telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has cleared the air over this issue, saying that such apps will continue to be regulated by the old act.
“OTT has been regulated by the IT Act of 2000 and continues to be regulated by the IT Act. There is no coverage of OTT in the new telecom bill passed by the Parliament,” Vaishnaw told The Economic Times.The official comments on the issue will likely allay concerns raised by some app makers.
The Telecommunications Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday (December 20) and by the Rajya Sabha on Thursday (December 21). It is now awaiting presidential assent before it becomes the law.
The bill will replace the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885, the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933, and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act of 1950.
Concerns over the bill
Last week, Shivnath Thukral, Director and Head of India Public Policy at Meta reportedly expressed concerns over the Telecom bill in an internal email to colleagues. The bill that was passed by Parliament did not contain any references to OTT or OTT platforms.
However, it did mention terms like ‘telecommunication services’, ‘messages,’ and ‘telecommunications identifier,’ which could have also applied to OTT platforms, meaning that the OTT platforms may have come under the ambit of the new Telecom Bill.
The legislation will also allow the government to intercept messages and disclose them to investigative agencies in an “intelligible format” and set encryption standards. This may mean that the bill may threaten end-to-end encrypted messaging services offered by the likes of Signal and WhatsApp.
Meanwhile, the Broadband India Forum (BIF), an industry body that has Amazon, Google, Meta, Netflix and OneWeb among its members, said that a clarity in this regard “will help achieve increased acceleration of internet/broadband penetration and will provide a huge impetus to the growth of the digital economy.”

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