LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS AMERICAS 2017: Zero-rating programs are “rarely” an onramp to the internet as intended, Mozilla Foundation executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker reflected in a keynote yesterday.
Baker said Mozilla’s research into the efficacy of such programs found zero-rating offers are frequently used as a way for existing customers to cut data costs rather than as a tool to draw new users to the internet.
“One of the original promises of zero-rating I think that hasn’t panned out, or really of (Facebook’s) Free Basics in particular that hasn’t really panned out, is that if people could see the internet through Free Basics that they would then move in to become full customers,” Baker said. “We found it’s actually the opposite. People experience the internet and they’re somewhat savvy and then they hear about Free Basics and see it’s a way to do something for free that they’ve already been doing.
Instead of zero-rating programs, Baker advocated for an equal rating approach, which applies the same subsidy concept as zero-rating but equally across all internet content. That would allow everyone accessing the internet to have the same degree of choice to decide what content is valuable to them.
Baker said this is just one small part of the “ton of work” that needs to be done to introduce more people to the internet.
Other pieces of the puzzle include tackling the cultural and gender gaps in accessibility, and addressing the fears and concerns experienced by first-time internet users.