For two days, I’ve been immersed in debates around WCIT, here in Accra at the African preparatory meeting. The delegate from Egypt, who had control of the text, was the most committed advocate of imposing a form of accounting-rate regime on data flows. According to him, the data are a burden on the network, they cause harm to the network, and the access network operators are subsidizing them. His views extend to content: he believes that the content is in some cases inappropriate.
I could understand this attitude from an executive of an old style unreformed voice telephony company, longing for the good old monopoly days when the network was operated for the benefit of the managers and employees and the customers were an annoyance to be tolerated. But this is a representative of the government of Egypt, who has a responsibility to ensure the broadest benefit to the people of Egypt, not the access-network operators.
My response to the arguments put forth by the delegate from Egypt was stated a few weeks back:
Is there a cost to delivering me the video of Clinton when I want it? Yes. Have I contributed to meeting that cost? Yes, by paying for the broadband connectivity that connected me to YouTube. My money has gone to my broadband provider. He kept it all, not sharing it with the people who maintain the server, made the video and did all the other things that made my viewing possible.
I have no commercial relationship with YouTube, or its parent, Google, who paid the bills for the rest of it. They see me as part of what they sell to advertisers. Whatever they spend on enabling me to watch the video when I want to, they recover from ad revenues.
Currently, people living in places like Sri Lanka are not very valuable to advertisers, but Google and other Over-The-Top (OTT) players must be thinking that we will be valuable some day; or that they better serve people like me, so we do not give our “eyeballs”to current or potential competitors. End result: I get to watch Clinton; some kid gets to learn calculus from Khan Academy, and so on.
In the end, it boils down to this: it’s a battle between those who believe that new applications and uses of electronic networks are a burden and harmful to their networks and those embrace the possibilities, opportunities and yes, even the challenges opened up by the Internet platform. I am privileged to stand with the latter.