Net Neutrality, Zero-Rating and Development: What is the Data?

3 September 2014 - A Workshop on Other in Istanbul, Turkey


IGF 2014 sub theme that this workshop fall under

Policies Enabling Access


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.

Name(s) and stakeholder and organizational affiliation(s) of institutional co-organizer(s)

Emma Llanso, Matthew Shears
Center for Democracy & Technology
Civil Society

Has the proposer, or any of the co-organizers, organized an IGF workshop before?


The link to the workshop report

Type of session


Duration of proposed session

90 minutes

Subject matter #tags that describe the workshop

#freeexpression #netneutrality #openInternet #development

Names and affiliations (stakeholder group, organization) of speakers the proposer is planning to invite

Helani Galpaya, LIRNEasia, Civil Society/Academic, Sri Lanka

Yana Welinder, Wikimedia Foundation, Private Sector, United States

Josh Levy, Access, Civil Society, United States

Olga Cavalli, Senior Advisor Information Technologies and Internet Governance - Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentina

Berin Szoka, TechFreedom, Civil Society, United States

Yves Nissim, Orange, Industry, France

Name of Moderator(s)

Emma Llanso

Name of Remote Moderator(s)

Matthew Shears

Description of how the proposer plan to facilitate discussion amongst speakers, audience members and remote participants

We will ask our invited speakers to provide short (less than 5 minutes) comments providing their perspective on the topic, and will then proceed with a moderated discussion that draws on the expertise and experience of the invited speakers as well as that of the audience members and remote participants. We will also include the opportunity for audience members and remote participants to pose questions for the invited speakers and others at the roundtable.

Description of the proposer's plans for remote participation

We would like to invite additional researchers with expertise in these issues, and would be happy to include them as remote panelists if they do not attend IGF in person. We will also use attentive remote moderation to ensure that remote participant audience members can be fully engaged in the discussion.

Background paper

No background paper provided

Related Sessions

Main Session in Rio de Janeiro on Other

12 November 2007 | 1127 views

Main Session in Rio de Janeiro on Other

12 November 2007 | 1233 views

Best Practice Forum in Rio de Janeiro on Other

12 November 2007 | 852 views