Views on zero rating internet services in Zambia

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What is zero rating internet? and how does it affect the ordinary internet user in Zambia? ZERO Rating internet services is where the service of an ISP is zero-rated and only a part of the internet can be accessed.

The best examples of zero rating internet in Zambia are the MTN, Airtel, Zamtel and Zamtel Velocity offers of free Wikipedia, Facebook, and WhatsApp on certain data bundles purchased.

Additionally, zero rating internet services is now the growing trend of ISPs in Zambia offering free streaming video services like Dstv, Netflix and Youtube. These services come on board on certain packages bought from Zamtel Velocity, MTN home packages, HAI Data packages, and Airtel Dstv connect now.

According to Yusif Amadu, a view could be expressed about Zero Rating internet in the form of internet accessibility and its functional foundation of Open Internet.

Zero Rating has a positive and negative effect. Its termed as a BLESSING IN DISGUISED”.

For telephone companies, it’s an opportunity to entice users to experience the Internet in the short term, with the hope users convert to fully paying consumers in the long term.

For the user, it is an opportunity to consume their favourite content, usually streaming video, social media or instant messaging for free or for a much lower price than otherwise.

Zero Rating brings down the cost of access to information in less developed countries like Zambia. A user of Wikipedia Zero, for example, has unlimited or no-cost to access everything in the online encyclopedia.

Further, providing free access to popular content and services is preferable from an access-to-information perspective than no access at all, and such free access may drive demand for general-purpose mobile internet access that can help encourage and fund investment in infrastructure.

A primary concern is that Zero Rated programs do not offer full access to the open Internet, and challenge fundamental functions of the web such as the ability to link from one source of content to another elsewhere on the web.

More so, many mobile operators already restrict their subscribers to some form of “walled garden”, where users have access to a limited number of applications or Services.

Some also advocate that zero-rating can be viewed as requiring discrimination among online content and service providers and may create twisted incentives for subscribers to access the “free” services of identified partners instead of competing services and hence risks anticompetitive effects.

To some advocates, such preferential treatment challenges fundamental principles of net neutrality and may present particular development concerns by giving dominant web services an advantage over emerging local competition.

Yusif Amadu
eLearning Unit
University of Ghana Computing Systems
University of Ghana
Cell: +233244659245
Skype: kooissi

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