CA eyes regulation of online streaming services, content

Kenya has revived its plans to regulate online streaming services to partly safeguard quality and address concerns over revenue losses for the State and private firms such as telcos amid a sharp growth in online content uptake.

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) is searching for a consultant to study reach of over-the-top (OTT) services in the country in telecommunications, broadcasting, and e-commerce segments and their impact on competition against business models of traditional service providers as well as the impact on business and government revenue.

Among the assignments set for the consultant is “to make appropriate regulatory recommendations on the treatment of the OTTs including online streaming services that substitute traditional services as a primary criterion for regulation of OTTs including online streaming services”.

The agency had in November 2018 invited bids for a similar consultancy but the matter was shelved.

With revived plans, Kenya joins a list of countries that are moving to regulate OTT providers of voice, video, data, and e-commerce services mostly dominated by multinationals over which individual nations exercise minimal legislative control.

India recently issued new regulations that tighten the grip of its regulatory authorities on OTT service providers, social media platforms as well as content creators.

Customer grievances

The rules force firms to set up faster and more efficient mechanisms to address customer grievances, making their content more secure for children by providing parental lock mechanisms and classifying their content into numerous categories.

The Kenyan watchdog seeks to determine revenue loss the OTTs are bleeding from the local economy by offering stiff competition to local telcos, content creators, and other businesses.

“(The firm will) examine and review the impact OTTs including online streaming services on different concerns in the industry (including but not limited to telecoms, postal/courier/e-commerce, and broadcast sectors,” it said.

Scrambling for Kenyan market

Subscription online streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Showmax, and DSTV Now are scrambling for the Kenyan market, which is growing fast driven by increased mobile telephony and data connectivity.

CA now wants a legal regulatory framework that will correct the regulatory imbalance where online streaming services are not within the regulatory purview of local authorities despite selling their services locally.

It also seeks to determine security risks posed by OTTs amid concerns over privacy of data of users on the services and address quality of service concerns.

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