The hidden cost of free internet in South Africa

Data remains an expensive luxury in Africa but free internet may not come free

Excellent insightful article from Indra de Lanerolle on The Conversation last week on the hidden cost of a free internet in South Africa.

Did you know that the cost of one gigabyte of data on mobile networks in South Africa —the only means of accessing the internet for most—is R149 (pre-paid) or about $11? This means that for millions of people in the country data is a luxury.

“So when mobile operators start giving some of this valuable commodity for free it warrants attention. From July, the country’s third-largest mobile services provider Cell C started offering some services such as Facebook and Wikipedia for free without paying for the data. In the telecoms industry this is called zero-rating.”

Cell C’s free internet services package is the result of a global initiative launched in 2013 by Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, which aims to connect “the next five billion.” Ebele Okobi, Facebook’s London-based head of public policy in Africa, says that zero-rating is a response to a crisis in Africa where growth in internet access and use is far too slow.

The mobile operators are breaking with the principle of net neutrality.

Zero-rating involves allowing data from some sources to pass through the system without charge while other sources have to pay. MTN is zero-rating its own service. Cell C is zero-rating Facebook and a few others.

It’s not difficult to imagine a two-tier internet emerging: the general internet for those that can afford it and an ‘internet-lite’ for the rest.

Read the full story and the three reasons why we should care.

Posted by Rudy de Waele aka @mtrends /

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