Monday , June 24 2024

Ministry must ‘manage’ Zalo, Telegram to protect users

The information ministry has said that amendments to the Law on Telecommunications, including provisions to “manage” over-the-top (OTT) media services, are needed to “protect user safety and interests.”

Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung presented draft amendments to the Law on Telecommunications before the National Assembly on Friday, arguing that the existence of OTT services in Vietnam means that there must be questions raised regarding their management in order to ensure service quality, safety and security.

The draft therefore entails stipulations on the management of telecom services, including data centers, said Hung. The measures and forms of approval also aim to encourage new services to develop, according to the minister.

Hung said the development of new satellite technologies has necessitated the completion of management policies regarding trans-national, satellite telecom services in Vietnam, “in order to ensure users’ interests in Vietnam.”

Le Quang Huy, head of the National Assembly’s Science, Technology and Environment Committee, said OTT services, in essence, use the Internet to provide applications like Zalo, Viber and Telegram. OTT services in general can be classified into two main categories: telecoms and content.

OTT services can allow users to chat, text, call and hold online conferences without additional costs. Such a characteristic has allowed the service category to grow quickly and has affected the revenues of traditional texting and calling services in many countries, including Vietnam.

Therefore, the management of telecom OTT services greatly affects people and businesses, as well as the progress of digital transformation and the development of a digital economy, Huy said.

The majority of opinions coming from the Committee agreed that Vietnamese law has yet to include clear policies regarding the issue, which may lead to problems with security, transparency and accessibility for users. Therefore, telecom OTT services need to be managed in appropriate ways, the Committee said.

In an April meeting held by the information ministry, Cao Anh Son, general director of major Vietnamese telecom Viettel, said telecom firms are facing a great decline in terms of calling and SMS services, while OTT services are growing quickly.

“During such a shift, telecom providers ensure the infrastructures for OTT services to thrive, but the cost of investment in said infrastructures is not shared. The burden on telecom providers regarding infrastructure investments is a major issue,” Son said.

Hung said in April that 90% of Internet data are being used for OTT services, but telecom providers do not receive appropriate amounts of profit to ensure the infrastructure for such information.

“How can we develop Internet infrastructure when OTT services keep getting richer and telecom providers keep getting poorer?” Hung asked.

However, at the Friday meeting, other opinions expressed argued that the inclusion of data centers, cloud computing and basic telecom services as groups that need to be adjusted would increase costs for relevant businesses, affecting the services’ impacts on the economy and negatively affecting foreign investments into Vietnam.

As such, the Committee has requested further research into foreign experiences before reporting back to the National Assembly on the design of a legal system regarding such technology and telecommunications.

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