Eastern Caribbean regulators reject the ad blocker for breaking Net neutrality rules
A network-level ad blocker for Digicel’s data customers has been delayed in the Cayman Islands as regulators in the region reject the program that will block Internet ads from reaching Digicel smartphones and other data plans.
Digicel announced last month that it would install software on its servers to block ads, similar to programs like Ad-Blocker Plus that users can install on their computers and phones. The system has been running in Jamaica for more than a month, and was originally scheduled to begin in Cayman on Nov. 11.
Digicel head of public relations Antonia Graham, responding to email questions, said, “This is about Digicel protecting customers’ data from abuse. With ads using up as much as 10 percent of a customer’s data plan allowance, this move allows our customers to browse the mobile Web and apps without interruption from unwanted advertising messages.”
Ms. Graham said the company has not set a new date to launch the software.
She said the program will prevent online advertising from using up its customers’ data allowances. In a statement, the company noted, “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.”
Companies like Google and Facebook will be able to pay Digicel through revenue-sharing agreements to get their ads through the blocking software and in front of users.
The Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority, the telecom regulator for five Eastern Caribbean states, wrote a letter to Digicel recently, telling the company that the ad blocker violates Net neutrality rules in the countries.
Net neutrality is the idea that all Internet traffic should be treated the same by service providers and not given special access or a “fast lane” to big companies that can pay for it, like Netflix or Facebook.
A statement from the Eastern Caribbean regulators states, “Service providers should treat all data on the Internet the same, not intercepting, interrupting, blocking, degrading, discriminating or charging differentially, by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, mode of communication or source or destination of communication.
“The implementation of this technology by Digicel will hinder the growth, usage and deployment of broadband,” writes the regulator, which represents Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Russell Richardson, general counsel for the Information and Communications Technology Authority, said his staff is monitoring the implementation of the ad blocker “and any impacts on businesses and consumers in the Cayman Islands.”
Responding to questions about the reception from telecoms regulators, Digicel’s Ms. Graham wrote in an email, “This initiative is unambiguously pro-consumer. We maintain positive relationships with our regulatory authorities across the region and are engaging with them on this issue.”