Net Neutrality and Zero Rating was the trending topic in this year’s 2015 IGF in Brazil. People took sides depending on their interests. For example, a research in Asia revealed that zero rated services were an entry point for people who had no access to Internet, and those who used zero rated services went on and converted to paid users after seeing the benefits of the Internet. Another research shows that people don’t use the Internet not because of the cost, but because they don’t need it. Weird conclusion I can say. And some interesting facts is, in communities where zero rated services were the norm, the users did not know the difference between the Internet and Facebook. That is a major problem if you ask me. Another research that Mozilla Foundation was involved in found that when users are given Internet bundles, they accessed diverse types of websites, not just FB and Wikipedia. But the big question was, who funded these types of research? An interested party would of course ensure research results are tilted to their interests.
All that not withstanding, we should pay keen interests to the following points,
1. Zero rating is illegal in most of Europe, And USA. Even in Brazil, zero rating is not acceptable. Ask yourself why.
2. Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) is a regulator and not a policy maker. Without policy on Net Neutrality, they have nothing to enforce thus leaving market players to their own devices, including abuse. Us the community, in an all inclusive manner should develop a Net Neutrality policy that can be adopted.
3. CA are usually given targets to ensure universal coverage of communication services. I am sure they are very happy to maintain the status quo since they will report zero rated services as a metric of increased access. This will be a big lie because they will have denied the rural folks access to the Internet. We all know one website is not the Internet. The best practice is to have the regulator pressure telcos increase rollout in under-served regions as part of their Universal Service obligations.
4. Zero rating infringes on fundamental human rights by denying users access to the Internet. It may be a conspiracy to keep developing countries in the darkness of the information age. Refer to point 1 above.
5. Let us advocate for universal coverage, better utilisation of USF, telecommunication infrastructure sharing, increased road coverage, accessible wayleaves and cable ducts, and affordable energy. All these will ensure the COST of internet comes down to a level where every citizen can afford.
6. Countries with no proper access to the Internet will find it difficult to participate in the Internet Economy. And isn’t the entire world now an Internet economy?
There is more, but these points are what comes to mind.