The Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA) advises the public that almost 1 000 local websites are either already zero-rated or currently being approved foresree access over fixed or mobile data for as long as the country remains in a coronavirus-related state of disaster.
As a service to Internet consumers, ISPA has furthermore committed to maintaining SA’s list of zero-rated websites which is updated every Monday and available here.
ISPA’s most recent initiative to help contain the spread of the Coronavirus follows extensive and productive consultations with the Department of Communications & Digital Technologies (DCDT), ISPA members, the educational community and the wider ICT industry.
ISPA had earlier in the lockdown issued a call for its Internet Service Provider (ISP) members and other ICT service providers to take steps to support Internet users engaged in online education during the Covid-19 National Disaster period.
ISPA said these steps may include zero-rating educational traffic, temporarily increasing bandwidth caps for some customers, or even providing limited free “lifeline” data packages to customers. ISPA continues to work closely with partners at TENET (Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa) and many other relevant stakeholders to develop practical advice for ISPs on how to identify national educational resources.
Any web-based educational or health resource which helps to meet challenges created by the pandemic may apply to be zero-rated.
The application form is available here. The application either has to be approved by the DBE (Department of Basic Education), DHET (Department of Higher Education & Training) or the DoH (Department of Health) and each entity has its own set of criteria.
It should be noted that zero-rating Internet traffic is surprisingly complex and requires the co-operation of all levels of network providers. Furthermore, not all network configurations can support zero-rating. The inherent intricacies of the process notwithstanding, consumers still need to know which sites are zero-rated as some are reportedly checking mobile data airtime balances to determine if a local website deemed critical to beating Covid-19 has, in fact, been zero-rated.
“Before ISPA’s engagement with its members and the DCDT around the creation and maintenance of a list of free-to-access Covid-critical websites, we saw people who had initially requested zero-rating resorting to testing it themselves,” explains Guy Halse, ISPA co-chair.
“There is no such thing as automatic zero-rating of educational resources. Schools, universities and colleges should note that zero-rating always has to be applied for and they should regularly follow-up their applications with the relevant government department,” he concludes.