Message to India on Zero Rating: Don’t ban what you don’t understand.

A number of academics globally including my colleague Silvia Elaluf-Calderwood and I, are in a race against time. We are trying to compile data and conduct research on a mobile business model called zero rating before it outlawed in a number of countries.  The model is particularly valued by the poor in developing countries because it allows them the ability to access local language content and services without it being applied to the mobile account balance. However some net neutrality supporters believe the model to be discriminatory and advocate to prohibit it.  See an overview of our forthcoming paper Zero Rating and the Next Media Revolution: A Glimpse of the Global Mobile Financial Data

Dr. Elaluf-Calderwood and I have participated in the consultation to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) about the policy for over the top technology.  Good regulatory policy is based upon a sound foundation of data and evidence. The decision of whether to abolish zero rating in India should at least allow process to gather evidence and see whether there is evidence of  consumer harm–or benefit.  Regulators that capitulate to activism are neither expert nor independent.  See our submission here Layton Elaluf Submission to TRAI OTT Consultation 24 Apr 2015

My Aalborg Univeristy colleague Albert Gyamfi’s dissertation “The use of Web 2.0 for Knowledge Management Processes: The case of Ghana Cocoa Industry” shows how social websites such as Facebook and YouTube can be used to facilitate knowledge transfer.  Access to knowledge on disease and pest control, new farming technologies, market information, and prices are critical for increasing cocoa productivity. To date most of the mechanisms for knowledge transfer between farmers have been based on face-to-face interaction. Scale and distance limit the information that can be shared. Social media platforms can supplement existing mechanisms to increase access to know-ledge and improve cocoa production.  This knowledge transfer is largely enabled by zero rated platform and could be reduced if not destroyed by ending such programs.  

I have written about zero rating in a number of countries.  See the following pieces.

IGF highlights how developing countries use zero rating programs to drive Internet adoption 

2015’s 100 billion question: What drives the mobile app economy?

Response to the Norwegian Regulator on Zero Rating

AT&T Sponsored Data is nothing new.  Why it’s hypocritical to allow paywalls but not data caps.

Richard Bennett submitted detailed remarks about the Internet in India in response to TRAI’s consultation.  Read his two excellent pieces on zero rating in India.

Net Neutrality in India:  Missionary Zeal v. Zero Rating

Net neutrality’s passage to India

Dan Lyons has written a paper about mobile innovation and the role of zero rating.  Innovations in Mobile Broadband Pricing