PTA Proposes New Regulatory Framework for OTT Services

PTA Proposes New Regulatory Framework for OTT Services

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has unveiled a proposed regulatory framework that would require all Over-The-Top (OTT) services, including popular platforms like YouTube, Netflix, WhatsApp, Facebook, and X (formerly Twitter), to register locally for a 15-year period.

The proposal, outlined in a 14-page draft available on the PTA’s website, mandates that OTT Communication Services operating in Pakistan obtain a 15-year license from the regulatory body. This move is part of a broader effort to regulate digital services within the country.

Malahat Obaid, PTA’s spokesperson, indicated that the draft paper has been published to gather feedback from stakeholders, with the deadline for public comments set for July 10. “PTA will analyze the responses and decide accordingly,” Obaid stated in a phone interview.

The PTA categorizes OTT services into three distinct groups: Communication services (such as Viber, Skype, WhatsApp), Application services (such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), and Non-Broadcasting Media Services (such as YouTube, Netflix, Spotify). According to the draft, OTT services would need to comply with the new authorization framework within 12 months of its implementation. Services without PTA authorization after this period would be deemed illegal.

The draft framework references the controversial Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content Rules 2021, which require OTT services to register locally. Despite a directive from the Islamabad High Court in May 2022 for the government to review these rules to ensure they align with constitutional rights, no revisions have been made so far.

Additionally, the new framework proposes stringent data localization measures, requiring “personal data” to be stored exclusively within Pakistan. It also stipulates that content monitoring and evaluation be overseen by relevant government ministries and organizations.

The rationale behind these measures, including the implications for non-compliant OTT providers and how the PTA plans to ensure the privacy and security of Pakistani user data stored locally, remains unclear. When approached for further clarification, PTA’s spokesperson did not provide additional comments by the time this report was filed.

This proposed regulatory framework marks a significant shift in Pakistan’s approach to managing digital services, potentially impacting how international OTT platforms operate within the country. The final decision will depend on the feedback received from stakeholders and subsequent deliberations by the PTA.