Technology Web

OTT Regulation is an Attack on Net Neutrality, but Zero Rating is just as Evil

Finally, the issue of Net Neutrality has arrived on South African shores, with money gluttons MTN and Vodacom making attempts at garnishing WhatsApp’s revenue through something shrouded in the phrase “OTT regulation”.

Put simply, Vodacom and MTN want to charge content providers for providing their content to the networks’ clients.
It’s complete nonsense, and shows a lack of understanding of the tech industry and the future of telecommunications, and of course, smacks of greed grown on the back of collapsing SMS revenues. (A gift of a revenue, as SMS was actually designed as a network control channel, not as a chargeable service of GSM).

If the parliamentary committee that has suddenly and mysteriously taken it upon themselves to hold hearings on the matter actually find a way to implement rnew controls, a very bad precedent will be set for the future of South Africa’s Internet. Reckless regulation could lead to Telcos having the ability to hold to ransom any service that could potentially transit their network; Google Mail, Dropbox, Youtube, Netflix, Facebook, Vimeo, Showmax, Skype, Apple, and every website and web service on the planet.

The knock-on effect is catastrophic to entrepreneurs and small businesses. For example the small online radio station They certainly do not have the revenue to pay Vodacom or MTN if someone on the MTNVoda-networks listens for a few hours to their station. Any young upstart product from South Africa, that could potentially change the world, will instead be squashed with punitive charges and never see the light of day. I certainly cannot and will not pay MTN or Vodacom if they charge me to have someone read this blog post.

MTN and Vodacom and the likes (Telkom, Neotel) will delight in further extending their anti-competitive business practices into controlling Internet connectivity and speed in South Africa. They will have no shame in selling their content from their portals to their customers while censoring competition from other content providers. It’s a small step from blocking and regulating just WhatsApp, to then developing walled-garden applications WhatsAppVoda or MTNiMessage which only work on their respective networks and are subject to the billing whims of these powerful companies.

It’s double-dipping. It’s bad for all consumers.

Cell C, on the other hand, have been championing an opposite voice; that of non-regulation of OTT services, and this I do applaud. They are actually trying to stand up for the consumer, which is fantastic. Or is it?

You see Cell C love to “zero-rate” certain services. (Charge customers nothing for their data usage). In fact, Cell C currently zero-rate WhatsApp traffic. In the same way MTN has zero-rated Twitter and their own FrontRow movie service, and Telkom zero-rates Showmax and MTN zero-rates WeChat and And Vodacom zero-rates some digital classroom initiatives. And this is just as big a problem. It’s anti-competitive in exactly the same fashion as OTT regulation. It’s just portrayed as customer friendly and easily disguised as being of benefit to the consumer.

Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites

Zero-rating creates tiers and classes of data that are not even for all. It’s a devil just as evil as OTT regulation.
It has to be net neutral or bust. None should have privilege at the expense of another.

Both OTT regulation and zero-rating are stances against Net Neutrality, introducing imbalances that a country filled with inequality can surely do without.

To read more, there’s a collection of articles on Net Neutrality in South Africa here.

Computing Rants

The Internet will forever suck in South Africa

Internet Bandwidth by World Region

It appears to me that there is no incentive to host any online content in South Africa. Hell, there’s no point hosting anything internet related in the whole of Africa. We’ve lost. We’ve become part of the third world on the Interwebs. The dark continent remains dark in the digital age. Thanks Ivy. Thanks Telkom.

In contrast, tomorrow a 1Gbps (that’s gigabit-per-second!!!) internet service arrives in Japan. for $56 a month (i.e. less than R560/month).

Yes. Let me repeat that. Tomorrow a 1Gbps internet service arrives in Japan. Do you know how fast that is? That’s faster than most corporate LANs! That’s faster than hundreds of business internet connections. South Africa currently has a Total National bandwidth of around 400Gbps. Give or take a few gigs.

Very soon 400 households in Japan will have more internet influence than the whole of South Africa.

Our entire country could be denial-of-serviced off the interwebs by a handful of people in Japan.

Amazon Web Services, here we come. With the pricing structures Amazon (or their competitors) offer, there is absolutely no reason to commission another Internet server in the whole of Africa, ever again.

Yes, of course it’s fucking tragic.

Computing a haven for 419ers

So according to the Spamhaus project, whose spam realtime blacklists I have just implemented, has at least five listings for hosting spam relays.

See them here.

I’m not going to bypass these blacklists for the sake of one or two adsl clients that use my mail servers, they must complain to Telkom. It is not my problem.

Good old Telkom hard at work again…


Business Day takes Telkom apart

On the back of a new study by Genesis Analytics, the Business Day has ripped Telkom’s pricing structure to shreds with the following articles: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Finally, some of the excellent citizen journalism is taking root in traditional media.

Computing Freedom

Buys Inc responds to criticism and public comment

Here follows Buys’ response to what was probably a lot of flak from the public (myself included). One of the forums on which a lot of comment was made was

By Buys Incorporated Attorneys

Members of the public have been contacting our firm after certain media reports claimed that Buys Inc. Attorneys are representing Telkom in their current dispute with, and others. We wish to use this opportunity to clarify some of the confusion.

1. As one of the very few South African law firms that specialise exclusively in Internet and IT law, Buys Inc. provides legal services to a very wide range of local companies. One of these companies is Telkom who we have advised on many IT law issues in the past. Click here to view our full client list.

2. Telkom does not use us exclusively and regularly instruct other law firms to act on their behalf. In the dispute with and, Telkom elected to instruct Adams & Adams Attorneys.

3. Towards the end of last week Telkom requested a legal opinion from Buys Inc. on a very specific legal issue related to the current dispute. Our opinion was delivered to Telkom on Friday night.

4. Like all other law firms we are bound by a duty of confidentiality towards our clients and the advice we give them. When the press requested our opinion on the current matter we declined to comment because i) Telkom is one of our existing clients and ii) requested our views on a very specific legal point.

5. Like all law firms, we provide legal opinions based on the law. As stated in our code of conduct, we cannot allow our personal views to jeopardize our professional integrity and independence. Click here to view our Code of Conduct.

6. When we provide legal opinions to clients, we neither support nor endorse their actions. The fact that the actions of some of our clients are not popular with a certain section of the public is something we cannot control or change… that’s the job of PR agencies, not lawyers!

7. For example, have a look at the ITWeb page that contains the recent article on the Telkom matter (see There are three Telkom advertisements on the page – one at the top, one next to the article and one at the bottom of the page. Does that imply that ITWeb supports Telkom? No. Does that imply that ITWeb’s reporting is not objective? I doubt it.

8. Another appropriate example is that of a medical doctor caring for a patient. Does the doctor endorse the views of the patient by providing medical advice? No. Does the doctor make a moral judgment before attending to the patient? No.

9. Buys Inc. supports freedom of speech but we also believe that constitutional freedoms should be used within the boundaries of the law. Like most other human rights, freedom of speech is not absolute. Those who host websites where the public may comment on topical issues should be encouraged and supported by all. If these websites operate within the boundaries of the law, they would probably succeed in their attempts to change things for the better. But if they operate in such a manner that they fail to acknowledge the legitimate rights of those they criticise, they cannot claim the moral high ground and is no better than those they attack.

10. In summary: i) Buys Inc. was not asked to take legal action against or any other person ii) Buys Inc. provide legal opinions to many companies, including Telkom, and would continue to do so and iii) like all lawyers, we do not endorse a certain course of action by providing a legal opinion to a client.

And the response to the above from users at

Im pasting a copy of Buys reply from the MyADSL’s News Page. which follows on below or click the link above.

First of all, is being represented by or Michalsons. They have offered their services for free. And perhaps everyone would like to drop these guys a mail to thank them for their support. Their email address is . I dont know anything about these people yet, but they seem suitably qualified for the job at hand. It is really fantastic to see some real support in South Africa.

Also we need to take time out to thank Gregg Stirton for taking the first step and deciding to stand his ground against Telkom. He is the real hero for taking so much of his time in creating the Hellkom Website. One must just view the Vents page and see the unhappy customers. At least they have some place to air their views and let off some steam and read the facts and info page. These are the people Gregg is doing it for. They are the SA Public.

Furthermore, to Buys Inc, I had a chat with RPM creator of the MyADSL website He said you guys were very pleasant to him. And you cleared the air on the matter at hand. This is very noble of you and we appreciate the straightforwardness and honesty. Perhaps I was a bit upfront on the matter, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I hope no offence was taken. At least you are up to speed on the current situation. I read your reply and It was very well written and thought out.

However, all been said and done, this does not let Telkom off the hook. They need to make some piecemeal offerings and do so very soon. The time for stalling is over.

Best regards,
Gary Hart