[discuss] African take on Net Neutrality

S Moonesamy sm+1net at elandsys.com
Thu May 15 07:20:11 UTC 2014

Hi Chip.
At 17:52 13-05-2014, Chip Sharp (chsharp) wrote:
>It provides an interesting perspective from Africa, but the concepts 
>describe could apply globally just like concepts discussed in the US.
>I do have a couple of concerns about this article that it continues 
>the expansion of what falls under the term "Net Neutrality" in its 
>discussion of two issues:
>   *  Web caching (Google Cache)
>   *  Zero Rating
>The discussion on Net Neutrality has already gone way beyond the 
>original concern over blocking and degradation of traffic.

If I am not mistaken net neutrality in the United States have 
something to do with "common carrier".  It is easier to look at the 
issues in terms of anti-competitive practices.  For example, if an 
ISP is selling internet service together with a video service, it 
could prioritize its video service so that it has an advantage over 
the competition.  That's not really applicable to Africa as there 
aren't companies like Netflix operating on the continent.

There are sometimes data caps for international access.  It can be 
argued that charging a different price for international access is 
anti-competitive as the consumer pays for internet access instead of 
access to a local network.  It can also be argued that the price 
difference is justified given the high cost of international 
bandwidth.  This is usually an issue in Africa.  There can also be 
traffic shaping for international access.  The effect is noticeable 
when the consumer tries to stream videos, e.g. watching youtube.com.

It is in the interest of youtube.com to have a local cache or else 
its videos might be unwatchable in that part of Africa.  It is 
difficult to argue that it is anti-competitive when there isn't a 
competitor in the country.  It could be anti-competitive if the 
content distribution provider strikes a deal with an ISP and does not 
offer the same deal to other ISPs in that country.  There are 
zero-cost services, e.g. youtube.com, facebook.com, etc.  An ISP 
might offer a subscription package where access to a few zero-cost 
services does not incur any additional charges.  It could be viewed 
as an anti-competitive practice.

The commonality in the above is bandwidth.  There isn't that much 
understanding of the economic aspect in Africa compared to, for 
example, the United States.  That aspect is not mentioned in the 
article.  I'll note that competition is to the advantage of the consumer.

S. Moonesamy  

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