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Op Ed in South Africa points out ill effects of plans to change payment arrangements for Internet

If the ETNO and related African group proposals to charge the networks sending information to Africa go through, those who will suffer will be users in Africa, particularly those with limited budgets and no internationally accepted credit cards.

The European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO), representing European telecommunication companies, is proposing that the “sending party network pays” principle be written into an international treaty. This proposal would force content providers to pay local telecom operators for the delivery of user-requested data. Users from countries not seen as having large revenue potential could even find themselves cut off from some content. Alternatively, attractive content may have to be moved behind paywalls, making them inaccessible for those without credit cards. The result would be a “balkanisation” of the internet and a new digital divide.

For example, the present economics of the internet allow students with access to the internet living in SA to access innovative short educational videos on thousands of subjects on Khan Academy, a nonprofit service established by a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur living in the US. The only cost is connectivity. If the European proposal is not defeated, the networks hosting Khan Academy content would have to enter into agreements to make substantial payments to hundreds of networks all over the world. The transaction costs would be onerous.

Full op ed.

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