Accessing Websites without Using an Internet Package: The Potential of Zero Rating

Jazz Zero Rated Website

Jazz Zero rated website allows users to access multiple websites without using an Internet package. This is a great service for people who want to stay updated with the latest news and events.

Some musicians pointed out that they would bring forward recording and release plans to fill the void left by the lack of gigging. Others said they would hone their skills in live-streaming and at-home recording.

What is Zero Rating?

When you watch a video, post a photo, or send a message, the bytes that make it up are analyzed and tallied by your internet provider. That’s how you know when you’ve reached your data cap.

Zero rating is a way for providers to exempt some of that data from caps. For instance, some T-Mobile customers get free access to Netflix and music streaming services through a program called Binge On.

Civil society organisations have found that having their digital content zero rated can be a major advantage because it democratises access to online resources. However, this only works if CSOs can meet audiences’ needs and build trust.

In the long run, zero rating may be a tempting business model for providers, but it has the potential to create new harms. It’s best used on a limited basis and only to address pressing access problems, but it should never be abused to undermine competition, consumer protection, innovation or free expression.

Why Companies Zero Rates Any Website or App?

Zero-rating schemes sound great at first glance. They exempt data-heavy apps and services from your cap, which makes them a good deal for consumers. But they also have a number of other problems that make them bad for the Internet as a whole.

The most obvious problem is that they give private interests an outsized role in shaping what is offered. In many cases, zero-rated apps are not truly extending access to news—for example, the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) is accessible through a zero-rating arrangement with the country’s largest mobile networks, but it does not actively promote this access to citizens.

Another problem is that zero-rated apps can skew the market by prioritizing certain types of content over others. This is a particular concern for services like Facebook’s Free Basics, which was initially pitched as a way to expand access to news in developing countries. This is why some commentators have raised concerns that zero rating could lead to forms of censorship.

What is the Purpose of Zero Rating Websites?

Currently, the vast majority of zero rating arrangements are devised and implemented by private entities. This gives them an outsized say in what kinds of applications consumers will get to use on their networks. It also creates barriers for new services looking to break into the market, as a service that eats up a lot of consumers’ data allowances will be unable to compete with existing offerings.

The nature of these arrangements also raises concerns about the potential for them to slide into forms of censorship. For example, Facebook’s Free Basics only offers access to a selection of websites that meet certain technical criteria. This leaves citizens without much avenue for independent or unbiased news sources and may leave them misinformed.

In addition, many of the sites offered through Free Basics are dominated by large technology companies with competing interests and agendas. This kind of arrangement can potentially skew the kinds of information that people receive, and could even lead to disinformation campaigns.

How to Access Zero Rated Websites?

Zero rated websites are online platforms that can be accessed without counting against a user’s data plan. They are usually made possible through agreements between internet service providers and specific websites. This makes it easier for users to stay informed about issues they care about. In addition, it allows for more transparency on how data is consumed.

Despite these advantages, there are some concerns about zero rating. Critics say that it can lead to the creation of walled gardens, which favour established content providers over new ones. It can also be exploited by internet tricksters to bypass data limits.

Nonetheless, it can be a useful tool for civil society organisations (CSOs). This learning brief explores the experience of three CSOs that used zero-rated sites during COVID-19 lockdown in Uganda to democratise access to information and resources online. It also looks at what lessons can be learned from these experiences, and how the use of zero-rated websites has impacted their audiences.

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