Moroccan Telcos Block Free VoIP Calls To Protect Their Bottom Lines

from the VoIP-providers-lacking-proper-license-to-print-money-for-telcos dept

American telcos don’t have a monopoly on monopolies. Foreign telcos can be just as inappropriately (and pehaps illegally) protective of their turf profits.

Moroccans and expatriates have taken their fury against the blocking of voice over IP (VoIP) calls to social networks, and have called for the boycott of the North African country’s telecommunication operators that implemented the ban.

There are now growing calls for Moroccan king’s intervention to put pressure on the firms to restore internet call services.

As is befitting monopolistic ventures backed by regulatory capture, protectionist policies were stated as an excuse for the blocking of free VoIP calls.

Morocco’s Telecommunications Regulatory National Agency (ANRT), which was behind the ban, justified its decision by stating that none of the services providing voice over IP (VoIP) or other “free internet calls” had the required licenses.

The country’s citizens have seen it for what it is, though: a completely transparent attempt to ensure the companies can still charge for as many international calls as possible. This led to immediate and forceful backlash, albeit one mostly felt by the companies’ social media flacks and their metrics.

The three telecom operators have lost more than 100,000 “like” mentions within 48 hours of the launch of #OPEUnlike campaign by Marouane Lamharzi Alaoui on Facebook.

Alaoui created a webpage that allows the tracking in real time of the number of people who have unsubscribed from Facebook pages of the three operators.

Rumors are now floating that the telcos are fighting social media fire with social media fire by purchasing “likes.” When the battlefield is Facebook and internet points are at stake, I guess it doesn’t really matter whether the “likes” are real or fake, as neither is going to put more money in the telcos’ pockets. Real accounts aren’t going to make any more expensive international calls than fake accounts, so there’s nothing more at stake here than first impressions from the uninitiated.

Possibly of more use is this strategy:

For some, the ban is illegal, arguing that ANRT has within its powers the ability to “propose” laws, but not to enact them.

“In its 2004 decision subjecting VoIP to a prior license, ANRT wanted to apply a legal regime and therefore exceeded its powers. The decision can be challenged before the administrative court of Rabat by filing for an annulment for abuse of power,” wrote Alaoui.

In addition, a local web awards program has been targeted with a boycott. The withdrawal of several candidates has led to the withdrawal of telecom Inwi as sponsor. A crowdfunding effort has been put into place to allow the committee behind the awards to continue without its telco sponsor.

Whether or not this will be a success is unknown. It’s pretty difficult for internet backlash and Facebook “like” attrition to outweigh an oligopoly backed by a very friendly regulatory agency and overseen by a king.

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Comments on “Moroccan Telcos Block Free VoIP Calls To Protect Their Bottom Lines”

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alpha tango says:

Let's look at the problem from another angle

The Telecom regulator in Morocco requires that any company providing a communication service (voice or video) must have a license. The license is granted by default but you must apply. The cost of the license is related to the revenue generated from the service in Morocco (which must be very low).

Microsoft, Apple, Google, and WhatsApp should all apply for a license in Morocco. It will show they abide by local regulation (like they have done in other countries). This will not cost them anything and will allow them to start pushing the paying services in Morocco.

Anonymous Coward says:

And now for the bad news...

IMO, the telcos involved in this should simply lay their balance sheet cards on the table and have their customers vote on how to fix it.

> The country’s citizens have seen it for what it is, though: a completely transparent attempt to ensure the companies can still charge for as many international calls as possible.

Unless you believe that the telcos are rolling in money like Scrooge McDuck, consider that long distance calls are part of the revenue stream. The telcos can either “protect that revenue stream”, or find some other way to raise that cash.

… Like by raising the base rate for internet access, establishing usage caps, or bandwidth limiting (and pay-to-unlock)…

Choose your poison. Or tell the monopolistic telco to fold, and … okay, so who IS going to provide you that service, now that you’ve killed the monopolist? You are? Well cool. You’re the new monopolist, congratulations! And by the way, what’s your business plan?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: And now for the bad news...

I have news for you, the cost per bit is the same whether it is Internet traffic, or telephone traffic, and they both travel on the same cables. Also, line rental covers the infrastructure charges. So either telephone charges are over the top, or Internet charges are lead to telco bankruptcy. One guess allowed as to which it is.

elemecca (profile) says:

Re: And now for the bad news...

Why, yes, I would be happy to pay more (even substantially more) for an Internet connection unencumbered by technically nonsensical restrictions designed to protect the revenue streams of legacy products from the same company. I would much prefer that my ISP offer unbundled Internet access at a price that reflects their actual costs, rather than subsidize their Internet service with the profits from services I neither want nor need and then attempt to force me to use those services.

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