The Government wants messaging services such as WhatsApp or Telegram to pay the operator fee (the question is whether they will succeed)

The Secretariat of Telecommunications and Infrastructures has presented today September 11 the Draft of the General Telecommunications Law. The preliminary draft includes a wide package of measures, among which the modification about what is considered to be an operator stands out. For the first time, the standard cites interpersonal communications providers that do not require a numbering service to function (a phone number), andThis includes instant messaging services such as WhatsApp or Telegram, among others.

And what does this mean? It means that these companies they will have to register as operators and, if their billing exceeds a minimum threshold, they will have to pay a fee that until now only applied to “traditional” operators such as Vodafone, Telefónica, Orange and many others. However, this is on paper, in practice things are going to be more complicated due to the free nature of these services.

WhatsApp, Telegram and others will be considered operators

In an appearance by video call, the Secretary of State for Telecommunications Infraestructuras Digitales Roberto Sánchez has offered the most outstanding details of the new draft bill, among which is the aforementioned change on the consideration of what an operator is. The text distinguishes three types, firstly the Internet service providers (ISP), secondly the interpersonal communication providers and thirdly those that offer signal transport service or interconnection between operators.

Within the group of interpersonal communications providers there are two categories: those that require a numbering service and those that do not. In seconds, instant messaging services such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts and others. Likewise, video calling services such as Skype, Google Duo or Zoom would also be included. Apps such as Twitter or Instagram that also have direct messages, but which the law considers “auxiliary services” would not be on this list. However, there are many doubts about what will be considered an interpersonal communication provider since there are cases in which the border

With the new law, all these services will be required to pay the operators fee, a rule that is already included in the current Telecommunications Law of 2014 and that establishes the following:

“Every operator will be obliged to pay the General State Administration and its public bodies an annual rate that may not exceed 1 per thousand of its gross operating income and that will be used to defray the expenses that are generated, including those of management. , control and execution, by the application of the legal regime established in the Law 9/2014, of May 9, General of Telecommunications “.

In the event that WhatsApp declared an income of 1 million euros, it would have to pay 1,000 euros as an operator fee. The problem is that WhatsApp and the vast majority of messaging or video calling services are free

Rate It only applies to those operators whose annual revenues exceed one million euros. In this sense, in the event that WhatsApp declared an income of 1 million euros, it would have to pay 1,000 euros as an operator fee. The problem comes with WhatsApp and the vast majority of messaging or video calling services are free, so they do not directly generate income. Secretary Roberto Sánchez has specified that the rate would only be applied on the income of the telecommunications business, not on the total income of the company, which in the case of WhatsApp is Facebook.

To this problem, it must be added that most technology companies are not taxed in Spain and they only declare part of their income in our country, a situation of which the Secretary assures they are fully aware. “If your income declared in Spain is lower, it is lower,” he assured.

More news of the draft law

But the WhatsApp rate is not the only measure contemplated in the draft. Measures are also included to provide a Internet service for 100% of the population, one of the key points of the Digital Spain 2020-2025 program. The draft defines that connectivity will have to support a minimum of services such as access to the press, email, calls, video calls and more. There will be no minimum speed, but the limit will be established based on the functionalities that it allows.

On the rights of users, there will be a set of measures to reinforce the position of the user with the service provider. For example more transparent and understandable contracts and tools to facilitate the comparison of offers. In addition, it is established that contracts can never last more than 24 months. With regard to portability, the ability to unlock the mobile card and keep the prepaid balance is ensured.

Other measures are the elimination of phone booths and directories, strengthening the capacities of the emergency communication service (112) and facilitating the deployment of 5G with a minimum duration of 20 years for spectrum licenses. The text of the preliminary draft has already been published, but the procedures for the approval of the final law could be delayed until mid-2021 or even the third quarter, as assured by Roberto Sánchez.