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[liberationtech] New report: The Importance of Net Neutrality in the Developing World

Jochai Ben-Avie jochai at
Sun Sep 25 08:47:46 PDT 2011

Hash: SHA1

Ahead of the IGF, and in keeping with this year's theme of ICT as a
Catalyst for Change, Access is releasing a new paper entitled "The
Importance of Net Neutrality in the Emerging and Developing World" which
I thought might be of interest to members of this list.

The report finds that reversing net neutrality will hinder the
development of poor and emerging countries, increase antitrust practices
among technology companies; balloon the cost of online learning;
legitimize the concept of filtered and unfiltered content; and limit
access to relevant content for the poorest.

A summary of the findings are below. The full paper is available at:

Looking forward to seeing many of you in Nairobi.


Jochai Ben-Avie
Access | Policy Director
jochai at
+1-888-414-0100 x704 (tel)
JochaiBen-Avie (skype)

New report finds an end to net neutrality will lead to increased global


As countries continue to debate whether to enshrine into law or revoke
the principles of net neutrality – which is the idea that all web
traffic should be treated equally by service providers, regardless of
where it originated or what type of data it is – a new report released
by digital rights group Access ( entitled The
Importance of Net Neutrality in the Emerging and Developing World,
argues that revoking the principles of net neutrality will have a
negative economic impact on developing economies.


Key Findings:


The future is (indeed) wireless

Developments in new technologies and business models are enabling
networks to reach more people at lower costs. As 3G mobile is
increasingly rolled out in developing countries, wireless access via
mobile phones will be crucial for the many people in these countries
without computers and/or fixed broadband. Increasingly, mobile phones
are being used in creative ways to increase productivity in fields such
as agriculture, banking, and health. As wireless access is drastically
more prevalent than landline connections, it is key that these networks
remain neutral. Tiered payment would put these countries at a severe
disadvantage as access becomes increasingly essential for carrying out
important day to day activities which are critical in the digital age
for development to take place, and to date, have played a significant
role in reducing poverty and promoting economic prosperity.


Reversing  net neutrality will hinder the development of impoverished

Revoking the principles of net neutrality will hurt the economic
development of impoverished countries by increasing antitrust practices
among technology companies, a trend which will be exacerbated in
developing countries where regulation is already not adequate or
enforced. These ISPs already frequently prevent users from using newer
and more cost effective technologies in order to protect their
traditional telecommunications businesses, such as VOIP services like
Skype. Such monopolies would increase the power of the few ISPs
operating in developing countries. It will also hurt small and micro
business owners, who won’t be able to pay for the same top-tier internet
access which their already richer competitors in the developed world
will be able to afford, and thus will be at a disadvantage in the global
internet market.


Net neutrality is key to enabling greater access to health, education,
and social programs in developing countries

Without Net neutrality, the cost of online learning would rise,
effectively marginalising access to online educational services.
Increasingly, developing countries that face shortages of healthcare
workers are utilizing mobile technology to promote quality health care.
However, health, education, and social programs, will be made more
costly and less effective by the loss of Net Neutrality. Programs –which
for example increase the number of people getting counseled and tested
for HIV/AIDs by 40% – and related types of community services are likely
to be de-prioritised, making access more costly and thus out of reach
for a vast majority of the population.


Authoritarian regimes are increasingly using filtering models pioneered
by the West

Worryingly, the report found that revoking net neutrality in developed
countries has negative effects in the developing world, as technologies
and legislation developed in the West migrate to undemocratic and
unstable countries. For example, Western filtering tools and services,
ostensibly developed to block child-pornography and other undesirable or
illegal online content, are popular among authoritarian regimes. With a
recent report indicating that nine countries in the Middle East and
North Africa are currently using filtering software – blocking over 20
million Internet users from accessing politically blacklisted websites –
the tools that Western countries use to create a tiered internet are
available as well.[1] Additionally, a reversal of Net Neutrality
principles in the West can be used to legitimize censorship by
autocratic regimes, which will hurt government transparency and the
advancement of human rights. The spawning of copycat legislation makes
it increasingly easier for oppressive governments to manipulate content
and control the internet.


ICT for D (that is, Development)

Broadening internet access in developing countries stimulates employment
and increases economic growth. Cities with quality, unfettered Internet
access can potentially attract more investment, and communities can
thrive if they can communicate with people within and outside their
communities about common interests. The role of e-commerce is steadily
rising in developed and non-developed countries – a recent study found
that the growth of Hong Kong’s Internet economy is 7% annually,
outpacing the city’s GDP growth rate of 4%.[2] Greater access to
government services online also fosters civic empowerment, contributing
to the creation and strengthening of robust democracies. Ultimately,
findings in the report reveal that net neutrality is key to unlocking
the dynamic potential of ICT in the developing world. Policies and
regulation that reject net neutrality will stunt economic growth and
innovation as well as restrict access to social, health, educational and
human rights services, which are increasingly dependent upon reliable,
unfettered wireless connections.




For more information, please visit or email:
info at

[1] Noman H and York C. J (2010/2011), West Censoring East The Use of
Western Technologies by Middle East Censors 2010-2011, Open Net
Initiative Bulletin p.
1 & 3; Last accessed 10 August 2011.

Full report can be found here:
Last accessed 10 August 2011

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