Today, we joined ASUTIC Senegal and other digital rights organisations to call for the Government of Senegal to amend a bill that undermines net neutrality and threatens access to web apps. Article 27 of the Bill on the Code of Electronic Communications, still to be voted on by the National Assembly, includes a paragraph of that reads:
“The regulatory authority may authorize or impose any traffic management measure that it deems useful to preserve competition in the electronic communications sector and ensure fair treatment similar services.”
This provision creates a loophole that grants the telecommunications actors the prerogative to slow down or block access to content from specific websites and apps, including WhatsApp, Skype and Viber — violating net neutrality principles that all internet traffic be treated equally.
This design, far from strengthening the regulator, puts it in a position where it is likely to be subject to pressure from companies and sectors of the Executive that could have an interest in weakening the net neutrality rules. The legislative should ensure that it protects the regulator by eliminating this loophole.
Net neutrality is key to ensuring the internet supports creativity, innovation and free expression. If these core principles of the open web are undermined, the government risks weakening the internet for all people in Senegal.
The government seeks to justify this control by claiming it is necessary to preserve competition. In reality, the provision is likely to be used to shut off some of the most-used services in Senegal. This will only add to the internet access and affordability challenges faced by a country where 1GB data costs almost 4% of average monthly income — double the affordability threshold set by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI).
Leaders in Senegal should join governments around the world, including India, Brazil, Cote d’Ivoire and EU countries, in affirming its commitment to net neutrality principles as a part of making access to the open internet a right for all citizens. The government must start by amending Article 27 of the Bill.
The Senegalese Association of ICT Users (ASUTIC) published an open letter outlining the problems with Article 27 [French & English].
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