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Wednesday, September 3 • 9:00am - 10:30am
WS208: Net Neutrality, Zero-Rating & Development: What’s the Data?

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We propose a roundtable to explore the arguments for and against “zero-rating,” which refers to the practice of offering free access to certain popular online services for customers of particular mobile networks. Several major service providers have entered into arrangements with mobile network operators in a variety of countries to deliver low-data-usage, “zero-rated” versions of their services. In some cases, this means using those sites does not count against a subscriber’s data caps, while in other arrangements, users can access the service even if they do not have a data plan.

One of the main arguments in favor of zero-rating is that it brings down the cost of access to information in less developed countries. A user of Wikipedia Zero, for example, has unlimited, no-cost access everything in the online encyclopedia. Further, providing free access to popular content and services is preferable from an access-to-information perspective than no access at all, and such free access may drive demand for general-purpose mobile Internet access that can help encourage and fund investment in infrastructure.

But zero-rating can also be viewed as requiring discrimination among online content and service providers and may create skewed incentives for subscribers to access the “free” services of identified partners instead of competing services. To some advocates, such preferential treatment challenges fundamental principles of net neutrality, and may present particular development concerns by giving dominant web services an advantage over nascent local competition. Further, the hypothesis that zero-rating will lead to widespread access to a free, open, and neutral Internet is unproven.

We will use this roundtable to analyze and assess the arguments for and against the availability of zero-rated services and to engage in a focused examination of available research and gaps to be filled in this important area for development.

avatar for Emma Llanso

Emma Llanso

Director, Free Expression Project, Center for Democracy and Technology
Emma Llansó is the Director of CDT’s Free Expression Project, which works to promote law and policy that support users’ free expression rights in the United States and around the world. Emma leads CDT’s work in advancing speech-protective policies, which include legislative... Read More →


Olga Cavalli

Adviser for technology, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Argentina
Olga Cavalli is an ICT and Internet specialist with large experience in project management, market research, competitive analysis, public policy and regulations. Since 2007 Ms. Cavalli is a member of the United Nations Secretary General´s Advisory group for the Internet Governance... Read More →

Rohan Samarajiva

Founding Chair, LIRNEasia
Rohan Samarajiva is founding Chair of LIRNEasia, an ICT policy and regulation think tank active across emerging economies in South and South East Asia, and the Pacific.  He was its CEO until 2012.  He serves on the Boards of Communication Policy Research south, Research ICT Africa... Read More →
avatar for Yana Welinder

Yana Welinder

Senior Legal Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation
Yana Welinder is a Senior Legal Counsel at the Wikimedia Foundation, where she manages the trademark portfolio, copyright strategy, and public policy, as well as the legal and policy work for mobile partnerships. She also researches and writes about technology law as a Non-Residential... Read More →

Remote Moderators

Andrew McDiarmid

Senior Policy Analyst, Centre for Democracy and Technology

Wednesday September 3, 2014 9:00am - 10:30am EEST
Workshop Room 05 (Rumeli -1 Floor / Room 3)

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