Potraz’s latest move simply prices the masses out of Internet access

Well this one is a bit special so you might to go and make a cup of a tea with huge helping of your strongest other-worldly beverage.

The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe, according to a report in The Herald has set what it calls a floor price for the cost of data and voice calls on mobile networks in Zimbabwe.

It says it is addressing the ‘under-pricing of voice and data services’ which have been ensconced in the bundles as part of packages offered by the providers.

The new regime sets a minimum  price at which data or voice can be charged at, even during a promotion. The said rate is about 2c per megabyte. In essence a dollar will get you 50MB. As for voice calls, we are looking at 12c a minute. This comes into effect on 9 January 2017.

To be affected mostly will be the hugely popular NetOne OneFusion product, which has provided relief for the average Zimbabwean. They have apparently been told to revise their pricing accordingly and terminate packages that do not comply.

As for OTT services like WhatsApp and Viber will have a premium charged on top of them, meaning you will pay that little bit extra for an already expensive service.

This pulls the rug from services that have become essential for everyday use for the average person, essentially pricing them out when they already feel abused by most service providers. This is especially so given that most Zimbabweans use mobile as their primary access to the Internet.

Delta Ndou on LinkedIn puts it more perfectly than we ever could:

I would think that under-pricing should be least of the regulator’s concerns given that there is rampant fleecing of customers by mobile network operators and if POTRAZ wanted to do something useful, they could start with setting a price ceiling for voice and data services (promotional and otherwise) which would effectively protect consumers.

 

Now we are sympathetic to the networks who have found it hard to respond to digital disruption taking place but surely they must realise that with no money on the market they will not benefit from this. People will trudge back to Internet cafes and the lot because it will just be impossible for them to communicate on the fly.

It means the cost of doing business for those in the informal sector goes up in a country with loads of impediments making it unfriendly for the average innovator.

Kinda makes a mockery of the drive for digital the authority and its parent ministry have been preaching about in the last year, holding all sorts of competitions to crown the most innovative with promises of support to build riches.

Even if they decide to zero-rate some of those services it means the Internet ceases to be for everyone, with our people becoming more narrow-minded than ever as their inspiration is based on what they are allowed to access. Allowed we say because pricing is a form of discrimination.

At a time when the rest of the world is pushing for the Internet to be declared as basic human right, Zimbabwe is saying you have a right to it… if you are rich.

It may look like it is protecting the local mobile operator. But the reality is, the market has no money. And it simply not use services it can’t pay for.