A Dialogue on "Zero Rating" and Network Neutrality

by Prasad Krishna last modified Nov 08, 2015 04:21 AM
Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2015 will be held at Jao Pessoa in Brazil from November 10 to 13, 2015. The theme of IGF 2015 is Evolution of Internet Governance: Empowering Sustainable Development. The workshop on Zero Rating and Network Neutrality will be held on November 12, 2015 at IGF 2015. Pranesh Prakash will be speaking at this event.

This was published on the IGF website. Read here the details.

The objective of this session is to provide the global Internet community, and policymakers in particular, with an informed and balanced dialogue on the complex Internet policy issue of “zero-rating.”

The purpose of the session is to help others, in their respective countries and locales, in their own analyses of Zero-Rating (ZR). The session will promote access to expert insight and multistakeholder community discussion. We encourage remote and in-person participation and aim for complete diversity across stakeholder groups and perspectives. As a main session, translation will be available in the official UN languages.

There are many different viewpoints on ZR, with some stakeholders being completely against the practice to others being fully supportive. In the open discussion leading up to this session, it has become apparent that some stakeholder approaches to ZR are more nuanced and varied than “for or against.” The session will consider the full spectrum of views.

In the case where ZR is advanced as a means to drive Internet access and narrow the digital divide, this session will also explore alternative approaches, such as the use of community networks.


The agenda is currently being developed between organizers and moderators. Based upon list discussion to date, the session will involve the following elements:

  • Introduction and Opening - After a brief introduction by the session organizers, the lead moderator will ask expert speakers to provide a brief description of how they view ZR.

  • Multistakeholder, expert dialogue - A moderated discussion on zero-rating amongst experts holding different positions and perspectives. The discussion will be based upon policy questions contributed from the community.

  • Community questions and discussion - Remote and in-person participants will be invited to pose questions to the experts, as well as to engage in guided discussion on topics raised.

  • Alternatives - Alternatives to zero-rating as a means to advance access, such as community networks, will be explained and illustrated.

  • Contributions from relevant IGF workshops - A handful of workshops at this year’s IGF will consider zero-rating. Organisers or participants from these workshops will be invited to contribute a readout to the session.

Policy Questions:

Based upon submissions from the community, below are examples of the policy questions that will be addressed during the session:

  1. Please describe ZR as you see it in 90 seconds.

  2. Under what circumstances are there benefits of ZR? What are the benefits? Under what circumstances are there detriments from ZR? What are the detriments?

  3. Is all zero-rating bad? Or are there business models of ZR that are good? Should the bad models be regulated? should the good models be regulated? How?

  4. Is ZR an anti-competitive business practice, or does ZR enhance competition?

  5. Does a focus on Zero-Rated Internet access in developing countries divert government attention and investment away from other efforts to enhance access?

  6. In those countries which have banned zero rating, what has been the impact?

  7. Does ZR limit or skew end-user behavior? If so, how? Is this effect different from that of other free offerings over the Internet?

    1. What are your thoughts,, for example, the following hypothetical: Imagine that Developer says to Consumer, "Send me your Internet bill at the end of the month. If you are being charged $Y/MB, and you consume Z MB of our service, we will send you a check for $Y*Z or simply reduce your bill with us by that amount.

  8. How should regulators / governments address the potential tension between expanding Internet connectivity and the desire for “pure net neutrality?”

Host Country Chair: Mr. Nivaldo Cleto, Owner at Classico Consultoria, Advisor to the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee of Brazil (CGI.br) and Board member of the Board of Trade of Sao Paulo (JUCESP), as a Representative of the Union.


The role of the moderators is to keep the discussion focused, self-referencing, fluid, friendly, and on time.

  1. Lead/expert moderator: Robert Pepper, VP, Global Technology Policy, Cisco

  2. Remote moderator: Ginger Paque, Director, Internet Governance Programmes, Diplo

  3. Floor and Readout moderator: Carolina Rossini, VP, International Policy, Public Knowledge

  4. Floor and Readout moderator: Vladimir Radunovic, Director, E-diplomacy and Cybersecurity Programmes, Diplo

Expert speakers: (confirmed as of 29 October 2015)

  1. Jochai Ben-Avie, Senior Global Policy Manager, Mozilla, USA

  2. Eduardo Bertoni, Professor, Universidad de Palermo, Argentina
  3. Igor Vilas Boas de Freitas, Commissioner, ANATEL, Brazil

  4. Dušan Caf, Chairman, Electronic Communications Council, Republic of Slovenia

  5. Silvia Elaluf-Calderwood, Research Fellow, London School of Economics, UK/Peru

  6. Belinda Exelby, Director, Institutional Relations, GSMA, UK

  7. Bob Frankston, Computer Scientist, USA
  8. Helani Galpaya, CEO, LIRNEasia, Sri Lanka

  9. Anka Kovacs, Director, Internet Democracy Project, India

  10. Kevin Martin, VP, Mobile and Global Access Policy, Facebook, USA

  11. Pranesh Prakash, Policy Director, Center for Internet and Society, India

  12. Steve Song, Founder, Village Telco, South Africa/Canada

  13. Dhanaraj Thakur, Research Manager, Alliance for Affordable Internet, USA/West Indies

  14. Christopher Yoo, Professor of Law, Communication, and Computer & Information Science, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Plan for online interaction:

This session will include a remote panelist who will be prepared to speak from a remote hub.

Both in situ and remote interventions are being carefully coordinated to maximise a diversity of views in the available time.

This session will treat online participants on equal footing with in situ attendees, and will monitor remote attendees specifically to ensure that their requests to ask questions will be noted. Participant interventions in the session will consist of questions, at two structured points in the session. Floor moderators will collect the questions, and will consult with the panel remote moderator to ensure that remote questions are considered, as the moderators select for stakeholder balance and remote representation. Remote participant questions will be read into the session in English or Spanish by the remote moderator, to avoid 'transaction cost' (time and possible connection difficulties).

‘Feeder’ workshops and/or connections with other sessions:

We have identified the following workshops and other sessions as relevant. Each shall provide a 1-2 minute readout or preview from their session.

  1. Workshop No. 156: Zero-rating and neutrality policies in developing countries

  2. Workshop No. 79: Zero-rating, Open Internet, and Freedom of Expression

  3. Workshop No. 21: SIDS Roundtable: “Free Internet” - Bane or Boon?

  4. Dynamic Coalition Session: Dynamic Coalition on Net Neutrality

  5. Access/PROTESTE event on Zero-Rating

Desired results/output:

As explained above, our desired result is to provide the global Internet community with a well-rounded and insightful dialogue on the Internet policy issue of zero-rating. The discussion is an output in and of itself, from which policymakers around the world should benefit. In accordance with the IGF reporting requirement, a rapporteur shall produce a neutral report of the session, which will not draw conclusions on the topic, but rather will summarise the main points discussed.