Italian communications regulator Agcom could impose new regulatory obligations on “consumer communication services” such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Viber, and could require them to pay operators for using their networks, according to a news report. The regulator is planning to propose an “obligation to negotiate” with telecommunications companies, as well as a requirement to respect Italian privacy laws. The proposed payment to operators should be “equitable, proportionate and non-discriminatory,” and serve as compensation for the amounts telecom companies have invested in building up their networks as well as the telephone numbers used by messaging apps for their services. In turn, the app providers could be allowed to charge consumers for value-added services.
Recently we wrote about an extreme measure taken by the government of Morocco against VoIP apps—banning them entirely within the country, on the grounds that they are anti-competitive. Italy’s approach to the question appears to be a more moderate one, but it addresses the same concerns—the exploitation of operators’ networks by OTT players that make no investment of their own in those networks, and the unregulated nature of OTT services themselves. If the Italian regulator’s plan goes forward, it will redress the balance by imposing tighter standards on messaging and VoIP apps and by requiring them to make some kind of payment to operators in exchange for use of their infrastructure.