As suppliers of public goods (policy relevant research), we at LIRNEasia know the importance of taxes. If there were no taxes, there would be no Internet. Much of the research being done today on multiple aspects of the response to COVID-19 is funded by taxes, including the flood of scientific articles that we are struggling to keep up with. The problem is that taxes have traditionally been levied on businesses located within the boundaries of the nation state. Tax is coercive, so in essence tax collection requires the ability of the state to audit tax declarations and to throw people into jail if they lie to the state or if they fail to pay taxes that are due.
The ITU’s ICT Price Trends 2019 report was just published. Below is an excerpt from an op-ed published today in the Daily FT: One cannot use data without 3G and 4G coverage. This is not available in all localities. Coverage is the necessary condition for data use. Content is the sufficient condition.
It’s not for the user to worry about how services are provided; it’s for the supplier. The user complains only when service quality declines or prices go up. But for those more engaged with the industry, it is important to think about what has to be done behind the scenes for the show to run smoothly. As with all infrastructures, the real challenge is the peak. Especially when demand peaks unexpectedly.
I have been teaching regulation since the 1980s, using all kinds of text books and articles. Since around 2000, I was deeply engaged in training regulators all over the world. It was thus not a big deal to respond to a request to write an overview or pull together a bibliography. But what I found most useful was a question from a colleague about the one article/book I would say was central to understanding regulation. Not ten, not five, but one.
Social media celebrities are campaigning for unlimited data packages. Yet the reality is that more than half the country does not use the Internet. Educationists worry about whether online education will leave the children in homes with no coverage and no smartphones behind. Teachers send 12 pages of notes on Whatsapp, without thinking how it is going to be used. Middle-class parents are asking around how to buy color printers, so they can get back their phones and laptops without guilt.
Hammered by retrospective tax determinations and non-traditional pricing plans introduced by Reliance Jio, the Indian telecom sector appeared to be in some kind of death spiral. But T.K. Thomas, one of the most knowledgeable observers of the sector, sees hope in the recent infusions of funds by entities ranging from Facebook to the Government of India. Beyond the immediate cash inflows he sees the overall prospects as positive: More than 50 per cent of the market is still not connected by data services.
This study explores the effect of the expansion of mobile phone signal on migration decisions in Myanmar.
Why wait for the regulator to ask? It seems like common sense for telecom network operators to voluntarily publish data on network usage like the Myanmar operators do. It will help beat back stupid ideas about free data or uncapped packages. Also, mobile operators know how many smartphones are on their network and even what kinds of smartphones they are. People such as teachers and education officials who are planning to deliver content over these devices need this information.
Today, our friends in Nepal are commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Gorkha Earthquake which took the lives of around 9,000 people and injured 22,000. I was reminded of the wide-ranging relief and recovery activities undertaken by our partners in the Nepal chapter of the Internet Society, focusing on supply of emergency power and connectivity to relief workers. We had just come back from teaching an eventful course in Nagarkot. Here is what I had said when interviewed by the BBC Sinhala Service the next day: 1. The immediate priorities should be rescue and housing and care of those rendered homeless.
Today, under very different conditions of multiple channels being available, the Fairness Doctrine makes no sense. But back in the 1960s, it was right. Here’s the story of how an unknown young man’s letter to the regulatory agency eliminated tobacco advertising from US TV. I used to teach about this, using it as an example of the serendipity of policy interventions. Sometimes, there’s a Henry Geller at the other end.
As I was reading about Facebook becoming the largest minority shareholder of Reliance Jio, I was reminded of a piece I worked up on the flight back from Baku in late 2012 after doing serious damage to ETNO’s efforts to impose an archaic termination fee regime on the Internet. Here’s the last para (it was a parable, so the quotation may not make sense all by itself; please read the post): Parallel to this confrontation, there were those on both sides who sought common ground. Could the “big data” capabilities of the amusement park, used for marketing and for smoothening the peaks and valleys of demand for its attractions, be mobilized to better manage the demand for the trains? Could the amusement park take over parts of the ticketing and reception interfaces (the stations) of the system? Could there be joint ventures?
LIRNEasia Senior Policy Fellow Abu Saeed Khan and I have been pointing out the vulnerabilities of the many Asian countries that rely on a few undersea cables for their international connectivity since 2010. We’re happy we’ve managed to shift the discourse and include language in various resolutions, but we have yet to see traffic flowing in mesh networks. The intriguing story of a deep-diving submarine that saw all its crew die in an accident is opening up the conversation in broader way, showing the problem is not limited to Asia. Because the internet can reroute data when cables are damaged, Western analysts have often dismissed the dangers of sabotage. But considering the vital role of data in Western institutions of all kinds, Professor Zysk said, simply applying pressure by degrading the network could be enough.
I was hoping we’d get more reports about congestion caused by changing use patterns caused by people confined to their homes. Here is a report on India. Despite the impact on their business, India’s operators have complied with regulatory requests aimed at encouraging subscribers to stay at home. These included providing free voice minutes as well as making prepaid accounts valid for a longer period. While subscribers are evidently topping up their airtime less under the lockdown, they do not appear to be using their devices any less – quite the contrary.
This short note allows for easy comparison of the options available to policy makers considering the introduction of remote voting in the context of the current pandemic conditions.
Contextualizing digital solutions to COVID-19 in developing Asia, via AfterAccess. Updated daily.
Coronavirus (the virus causing the disease Covid-19) has two universal problems: no vaccine or drug has been developed as yet, and the diagnostic tools are scarce. This combination has dangerously multiplied the risk of infecting Bangladesh. Because, our population density is much higher than those countries that have been fatally hit by far (see the graph). Covid-19 is not the last pandemic virus. And nobody knows when the next one will attack, followed by another.