The evolution of Internet policy in the South Pacific

Child exploitation and blocking of inappropriate content online is a major topic of conversation in most of the Pacific Islands. This social environment poses a significant risk to any mobile operator’s business model or is an opportunity to reduce compliance cost and lead the industry depending on the operator’s response to the threat.


There are three options;

  1. Lead the market
  2. Watch your competitor lead the market
  3. Wait to be restricted by legislation

The potential harm of taking a reactionary position is high;

  • customer backlash
  • reduced data revenue
  • excessive compliance costs
  • legislation which restricts commercial flexibility.

Where website blocking compliance is mandatory and user-centric, it is integrated into the telco, but often in a situation where the telco can not recover costs, UK and Nigeria are a good example of this. In the UK telcos have traditionally had little opportunity to differentiate their offer, limited scope to determine the technological approach which meant they experience technology lock-in well past its effective use by date.

When site blocking is legislated it is ineffective; India is a good example of this. Lists of URLs to be blocked are provided to telecommunication companies, yet India has the 2nd highest rate of porn in the world.

Site blocking creates worldwide criticism for freedom of speech and does very little to alter the behaviour of citizens who will add VPN’s. VPN’s have a flow on impact to constrain the network which leads to poor performance on the network, which is blamed on the telco; this creates a higher support cost and a reduced % of the total customer wallet for telco services.

Despite good intentions, the government is left defending a blunt approach while having a tiny impact on behaviour they’re trying to prevent.

A good example of this occurred in Nauru when the government said blocking internet sites was necessary to crack down on pornography. The government is accused of blocking Facebook. The justice minister, David Adeang, stated in a release Nauru was a small country with limited resources “and we do not have the capability to monitor the Internet like larger nations, so this move and our new laws are both significant measures”.

This put the Nauru in the hot seat as U.N. decries internet blocking, was a clampdown on free expression and violation of human rights. Monitoring the Internet is not the key. In cases like this, the telco is in a prime position to assist the government with its objectives with a higher level of success, by making tools available for parents, while ensuring any industry compliance measures are met, to gain a local competitive advantage.

Longer term a telco may be able to offer the solution of choice while the government focuses on education and awareness.

Vanuatu is a great example of a programme of work addressing all areas of cyber criminal activity with a working group from education to criminal enforcement.

The Vanuatu Cyber legislation intends to form a working party to mandate the implementation of parental controls. You can find all of the information about the current government policies here. In cases like Vanuatu, the opportunity for the telco is to launch before any other provider to lead the market. With precedent and data, the telco is also in a position to influence the working party or provide a lead role. Also, a commercial precedent is set before any government legislation. While the telco is in the best position to help keep kids safe online, its still a business and responsible for maximising shareholder returns, not social objectives. A positive mobile CSR initiative can be funded from an operator, but the scope for charitable will still be determined by company profitability and APRU.

In Samoa, the pressure being applied by government officials is stemming from new awareness of Snapchat nude selfies and cyberbullying on Facebook which is occurring in local high schools. Statements from the police like “Social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or other sources of entertainment can be used to conduct cyber bullying and unauthorised postings of compromising pictures and harassment. “ are driving the government to act with blunt measures, where no alternative exists.

By providing the government with an industry-led approach, a mobile operator can avoid compliance costs by showing best practice approaches proven they achieve the outcomes legislators are seeking without an outright blocking of social media.

And as a telco you think you have time to react – you’re wrong, the Tongan Parliament rushed through two new bills recently, including one that will establish a new body with powers to block selected internet content. Matangi Tonga reports the House unanimously passed the bills which were pushed by communications minister, Siaosi Sovaleni.
Mandatory filtering is also mentioned which allow the blocking of certain websites for the sake of protecting children, although people can apply for the mechanism to be disconnected. It not clear if this will be at a country level or inside the telco. Similar moves are happening in Papua New Guinea. On 11th May 2016, a workshop organised by the PNG Censorship Board in collaboration with NICTA was held today in Port Moresby to deliberate on ideas that should be taken into consideration for an Internet Filtering Policy in the country.

What is the solution?

Create a point of difference which addresses a market need.

Bypass can work with the mobile operator to reduce the impact of compliance while increasing the effectiveness of filters which are controlled by the user. Bypass offers a kid-safe internet connection with is self-activated by the parent. The parent can choose to block social media outright, during a particular time of the day, as punishment, or to prevent cyberbullying issues.

Because the service can be self-activated or deactivated by the parent, this removes the negative impact of site blocking enforcement for those who value freedom of choice.

Parents are not just concerned about inappropriate content, their secondary concern is the physical and mental health of their teenagers spending too much time online, and this issue isn’t being addressed by the government. Spending too much time online can impact education and career prospects.

Reduce Compliance Cost

Bypass’s kid safe filtering technology is much wider reaching than government compliance. For example in India, our adult content filters block millions more domains than those in the government regulated lists.

By providing the tools for families to have a safe online experience, the operator can prove to the government that legislative regulation is not required, allowing the government to divert resources into education.

This approach to leading the market positions the ISP as family friendly while enhancing core relationships with government to influence local policy.

Meet legislative requirements

Bypass has built the technology to ensure legislative compliance requirements are met ensuring the service provider can meet any existing or future legal requirements, therefore, not putting local operating licences at risk.

Deployed on a single platform and because it’s inside the operator, network level data can also be used to show which approach is more effective to influence future policy changes without any risk of non-compliance.

Contact us for further information if you’d like some help understanding your options.

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