After an announcement earlier this week that a parliamentary committee will meet at the end of January to discuss whether over-the-top (OTT) services should be regulated in South Africa, a Change.org petition has surfaced calling on South Africans to save OTT services.

The petition was created by online women’s magazine, All4Women, and an excerpt from the petition reads, “Mobile monopolies Vodacom and MTN have petitioned the South African government to ‘regulate’ free phone and message providers such as WhatsApp and Skype.”

Government has indeed heard these calls and the matter will be discussed by the Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services on 26th January. At present there are no plans to regulate OTT services such as WhatsApp, Skype and Viber.

The petition argues that while these services do use data, they are cheaper than making calls and sending SMSes and that network operators “…have been overcharging (among the highest cell phone rates and SMS rates in the world) since they started.”

Network operators are fed up

The argument being made by Vodacom and MTN is that OTT services do not need to pay the fees or adhere to the licensing and telecommunications regulations that they do. According to Vodacom and MTN this gives these services an unfair advantage while still piggybacking on infrastructure that operators in the country have built up over time, and at great expense.

Hard as it may be to believe, the fact that a discussion is happening at all is a good sign for our democracy. Earlier this month in Morocco, users woke up to OTT services being blocked by mobile network operators without so much as a warning.

The petition will be sent through to Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services, Mmamoloko Tryphosa Kubayi, Minister of Communications Faith Muthabi as well as the Presidency for review.

At time of writing the petition has garnered over 5 000 signatures of the total goal of 7 500.

Do you think that OTT services should be blocked, or should government and network operators leave them alone? Let us know in the comments.

[Source – All4Women]