In January Moroccans lost the use of Viber, Whatsapp, and Skype. Moroccan mobile operators Maroc Telecom, Meditel and Inwi, blocked over-the-top services. A press release Morocco’s telecoms regulatory agency, the ANRT, states that VoIP apps violated license agreements. In the eyes of the ANRT, Skyping someone is the same as phoning them. So they would need a telecommunications license to provide a legal phone service.
Joke going viral in #Morocco: following operators decision to ban VOIP, the post office has decided to clamp down on emails!
— HananeBoujemi (@HananeBoujemi) January 6, 2016
The press release also points out that VoIP apps are cutting into the revenue of mobile operators. We’ve found our real reason. Money. A report from Xalam Analytics discovered that massive savings (40-99%) were possible if African mobile users switched to VoIP apps. Telecoms companies got scared and got the ban hammer out for over-the-top service providers.
Silicon Valley made its name on disruption. But incumbent players don’t like upstart start-ups messing with their cash flow. Morocco’s heavy-handed attack on Silicon Valley is not an anomaly. Lawyers representing established industries and governments are sharpening their axes to go to war. Silicon Valley companies are facing public outcry over a host of issues such as worker’s rights, taxation and licensing.
In the UK mobile operators want Ofcom to intervene and level the playing field. Over-the-top services use the network infrastructure but contribute little towards its upkeep. They feel like they’re shouldering the cost while others run wild. Network providers around the world are facing similar situations.
“Mark Zuckerberg is like the guy who comes to your party and drinks your champagne, and kisses your girls, and doesn’t bring anything.”
–Denis O’Brien, Irish telecoms don (The Telegraph)
Google’s ‘holding company’ Alphabet has a market cap that climbed above $550 billion. Companies with the GDP of a moderately sized country should be able to put up some cost towards the network. Although Google Fiber is providing gigabit speeds in selected locations. Not that you need to be the world’s biggest company to install super-fast broadband, rural broadband projects have achieved similar, perhaps superior, speeds.
Maintaining the network is essential for over-the-top services, whether or not they choose to pitch in or even buy out the existing infrastructure companies remains to be seen.
Morocco’s VoIP services are now back online thanks to the VoIPDown movement. Technologists were keen to point out the virtues of VPN services like LiquidVPN during the outage over trying to reason with the Moroccan government. It just goes to show how national boundaries are being strained by the force of transnational corporations.