Digicel plans to install ad blocking software on its network, stopping online advertisers from reaching Digicel’s mobile Web users beginning Nov. 11, the company has announced.
Using new software from an Israeli company, Shine Technologies, the company will start blocking display and video ads for mobile users in Jamaica and roll it out to its 30 other markets in the Caribbean and the South Pacific in the coming months, a statement from Digicel says.
Telecom regulations differ from country to country and it is not clear in which jurisdictions the blocking software would be legal.
The company says advertising can take up as much as 10 percent of a customer’s data. The network-level software is similar to programs like Ad-Blocker Plus that users can install on home computers to block most ads except those that are “whitelisted” by paying a fee to the software company to get through the blocking software.
Digicel’s statement notes that companies like Facebook and Google will have the option to sign on to revenue-sharing agreements. Companies that want to have their ads allowed through Digicel’s network will have to give Digicel part of the money they make off the telecom’s mobile customers.
“Currently, these companies do not pay to make use of the network and the services they provide on it suck up bandwidth to make money for themselves through advertising while putting no money in,” Digicel said in a statement.
Digicel Group Chairman Denis O’Brien said in a press release, “This is about giving customers the best experience and about getting access to broadband to the unconnected and allowing them to benefit from the opportunities it affords.
“Companies like Google, Yahoo and Facebook talk a great game and take a lot of credit when it comes to pushing the idea of broadband for all – but they put no money in. Instead they unashamedly trade off the efforts and investments of network operators like Digicel to make money for themselves,” he said.
Russell Richardson, general counsel for the Information and Communications Technology Authority, said he has not looked specifically at whether the Digicel software violates regulations for telecom companies in the Cayman Islands.
“We are monitoring the situation and any impacts on businesses and consumers in the Cayman Islands,” he said.
Digicel Group spokeswoman Antonia Graham, said in an email, “We have not engaged with ICTA – but it’s important to point out that we are operating within the law and take our responsibilities in this regard very seriously.”
Regulations in the Cayman Islands forbid service providers from doing things that “may affect trade in the Islands.” However, the Information and Communications Technology Authority can give a company an exemption if the move improves production or distribution.
The ad blocking software could run afoul of regulators in the United States and the European Union, where blocking ads on the network level could be seen as discriminating against some types of Web content. Net neutrality, which means every type of data has to be treated equally by networks, has been a major topic of debate among telecoms regulators around the world.
Officials in Europe and the U.S. have come down on the side of Net neutrality, which would prevent Internet carriers from giving a faster connection to Netflix or Amazon, for example, if those companies are willing to pay for better speeds on the network.
Shine CEO Ron Porat said in a statement, “As the first operator worldwide to deploy our technology at the network level, Digicel is making a clear call for an improved customer experience. We believe it is now time for everyone in the digital advertising ecosystem to look to the future and start having a conversation about how better and sustainable digital advertising can be created to foster stronger, mutually beneficial relationships that are based on transparency and trust.”