Thu, Mar 24, 2016 - Page 4 News List

NCC mulls messaging app regulations

DATA OR TELECOM:As technologies evolve, laws that govern communications need to be updated. The NCC is now searching for a balance between regulation and innovation

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The National Communications Commission (NCC) is seeking to redefine Type-II telecommunication services through a public hearing in view of controversies generated by the text-messaging application Juiker (揪科).

The application was jointly developed by the government-affiliated Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and LofTech Corp as part of the government’s efforts to prevent leaks of confidential government information via the use of popular instant-messaging applications, such as Line and WhatsApp.

In addition to allowing users to send messages via the Internet, users can make domestic and international landline calls or call mobile telephone numbers at a lower rate using Juiker.

Based on the current regulations, Juiker developers are obligated to obtain a Type II service license if they allow people to make landline calls or mobile telephone calls, as Skype did.

However, the developers did not do so.

NCC spokesperson Yu Hsiao-cheng (虞孝成) said that many instant-messaging applications enable users to make telephone calls over the Internet.

He said that the commission must first determine if Juiker technically offers a “data service” or a “telecom service.”

He also said that the Type-II operators are currently defined as those that lease the network from Type-I operators to offer their services.

The commission might face problems enforcing laws using the same definition in the future, because Juiker leases the network from a Type-II operator and is able to circumvent current regulations.

When considering the issue, the commission would have to ensure that there is fair competition in the market and consumers reap the most benefits, Yu said.

“If we consider that these applications offer telecom services, then it would not be fair to the Type-I or Type-II operators because these application operators not are currently obliged to pay into the telecommunication universal fund, which was established to support telecom services in economically advantaged areas,” he said.

“We do not want to kill any innovative services by stipulating strict regulations, either. Therefore, we want to hear from the public to determine what the best option is for consumers,” Yu added.

Last year, the commission submitted proposals for five new acts to the Executive Yuan to tackle challenges in the digital convergence era.

Yu said that the commission has yet to determine which of the draft acts would regulate applications like Juiker.

Yu said that the Executive Yuan is scheduled to complete the review of the five new acts by the end of next month, adding that the commission might be able to add the regulations relevant to instant-messaging application in the new acts in time before they are sent to the Legislative Yuan.

If not, the commission can brief lawmakers when the acts are reviewed by lawmakers, he added.

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