The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) plans to tighten regulatory oversight on online media content providers, who are increasingly coming under the spotlight of the government on tax and copyright issues.
CA is now seeking a consultant to check the adoption and impact of these services (known as over-the-top services (OTTs) to determine the level of penetration in the country.
OTTs are third-party services that reach viewers by providing services including TV and film content- over the internet, with their popularity growing in Kenya over the recent past.
“The consultant will be expected to make appropriate recommendations on the basis of the study findings, on the best regulatory approaches that may be employed to address the coexistence of OTTs … with traditional services, and possible implications of the proposed regulatory approaches,” said CA in a notice.
OTTs are categorised by the range of service offered including voice, video and data services. Examples of OTTs operating in Kenya include Netflix, Showmax, ViuSasa, Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, YouTube, Telegram, Ambia (a product of Elige Communications), and Viber.
The consultant that will be engaged for six months, will be expected to identify regulatory requirements prescribed for traditional services that should be prescribed for OTTs.
The scope of work includes assessing the extent to which consumers of communications and media services are substituting the use of traditional services with OTTs including online streaming services.
The adviser will also be mandated to examine and review impact OTTs on consumers including privacy concerns, quality of service and costs of access as well as impact on licensed service providers including business models, revenue and competition.
As a reaction to the ever-growing bandwidth burden placed on their networks by OTTs, some data service providers have been accused to block, throttle or prioritize some of the providers’ traffic.
Elige Communications—a voice-over-internet protocol (VOIP) service provider—has complained about dropping of its calls by one of the telcos on allegation that they are international calls yet they are internet-originated calls.
A 2020 policy brief on OTTs notes Kenya’s regulatory landscape is complicated by the fact that OTT providers are global players but with significant local impact.