Zero is still better than nothing

Roslyn Layton posted an article this morning “Zero rating: Who bears the cost of bans?” that is a worthwhile read.

…those who wish to ban zero rating assert that all mobile plans must be “affordable full access,” and that anything less would be robbing consumers of the complete Internet experience. But this is tantamount to mandating that everyone fly first class.

Clearly, this one-size-fits-all attitude ignores the fact that consumers have widely varying needs and preferences. In the same way that people want to pick and choose their cable channels, they want the same freedom when it comes to their Internet service.

Earlier this year, I wrote about “Intellectual purity of technology over people” and “Connecting the unconnected“, taking a look at a variety of approaches being pursued to provide introductory internet connectivity to people who cannot otherwise afford devices or broadband service.

Should carriers and applications be restricted in exploring business models that increase adoption of digital technology and services? Or, as [Facebook founder, Mark] Zuckerberg asks, will an “extreme definition of net neutrality” put “the intellectual purity of technology above people’s needs?”

A few years ago, in a piece called “Restricting trade“, I wrote “It is difficult to understand how consumers can benefit from restrictions in the types of offers available to them.”

Almost 2 million Canadian households still don’t have a broadband connection and most of them are located in urban centres. As I wrote in May, “Affordable broadband isn’t just a rural issue“.

Canada continues to have a problem with broadband adoption in low-income households, whether urban or rural, despite government programs continuing to define digital adoption as a problem framed in terms of geography, not affordability. Pricing discrimination, including zero-rating, should be considered as we recognize the challenges of broadband affordability among low-income households.

It is going to take creativity from all stakeholders to develop solutions for universal connectivity; why would we limit the options under a guise of “intellectual purity”?

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