World Phone Internet Services Pvt. Ltd. applauds Department of Telecommunications rejection of TRAI recommendation that OTT Services such as Facebook and WhatsApp remain unregulated

New Delhi, Delhi, India – World Phone, India’s premier VoIP service provider, today applauded the widely-reported decision of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to reject the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) regarding Over the Top (OTT) players.  According to a widely-reported unnamed DoT official, “The Internet Telephony recommendation of TRAI was not accepted by the DoT. The Department has now sought comprehensive reference from TRAI for internet and over-the-top players.”

World Phone has single-handedly been the driving force for this DoT decision.  Its pending legal action (Writ Petition (Civil) No. 11173/2019) has sought that the Hon’ble Court enjoin Facebook, Inc. n/k/a Meta Platforms, Inc. “(“Meta”) and WhatsApp, LLC from providing Internet Telephony services until such time as they are in full compliance with the applicable requirements for providing these services in the Union of India.

The Hon’ble Ms. Justice Rekha Palli previously recognised in the World Phone legal action: “Though pleadings in the matter are complete, it appears that the TRAI, had on 14.09.2020, made certain recommendations which, prima facie, were not in favour of levying of any charges on the entities providing Over The Top (OTT) services.”  The Court next ruled that “it is expected that before the next date of hearing, the said respondents will take a final decision on the aforesaid recommendations.  While doing so, it will also be open for them to consider whether any fresh recommendations are called for from the TRAI.”  In other words, the DoT has done what was requested by the Court in World Phone’s legal action against the DoT, Meta, and WhatsApp, LLC.

Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp currently provide Internet Telephony to hundreds of millions in India without any license or clearance from the concerned authorities.  No different than regulatory decisions barring “discriminatory pricing” for different data platforms or content, World Phone’s action seeks a ruling that levels the playing field for licensed operators such as World Phone.

Disregarding applicable law, Facebook messenger and WhatsApp also currently operate in India without any underlying physical presence in India.  These unregulated activities can be viewed as a form of digital colonialism that not only hurts companies such as World Phone but directly threatens our national security and our citizenry’s autonomy, privacy, and sense of self-worth.

For example, seeking to monitor grocery purchases, Meta and Jio Platforms announced on 29 August 2022, the launch of “the first-ever end-to-end shopping experience on WhatsApp, where consumers can shop from JioMart right within their WhatsApp chat.”  This will allow users in India “to seamlessly browse through JioMart’s entire grocery catalog, add items to cart, and make the payment to complete the purchase – all without leaving the WhatsApp chat.”  This comprehensive food surveillance follows the head of “WhatsApp India” previously announcing in July 2020:  “Our collective aim over the next two to three years should be to help low-wage workers and the unorganised, informal economy easily accesses three products – insurance, micro-credit, and pensions.”  In other words, Meta and WhatsApp seek to control all possible levers of commerce for the Indian people.

The Hon’ble Mr. Justice Yashwant Varma has ordered that the next hearing in World Phone’s action is set for 8 September 2022.

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