Keep hands off Netflix for now, orders new CS

Thursday January 14 2016

ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru speaking at Inoorero University during their Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) commissioning program on June 13, 2012. CS Mucheru has told the different regulators itching to lay their hands on American film service Netflix to hold their horses pending direction from the government. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA |

ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru speaking at Inoorero University during a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) commissioning programme on June 13, 2012. Mr Mucheru has told the different regulators itching to lay their hands on American film service Netflix to hold their horses pending direction from the government. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By LILIAN OCHIENG'
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ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru has told the different regulators itching to lay their hands on American film service Netflix to hold their horses pending direction from the government.

He said the ministry has opened discussions that will lead to regulations for companies classified as Over The Top (OTT) service providers in a favourable manner, to retain the businesses locally.

Netflix has just deployed its video streaming service in Kenya, sparking divergent views opinions from the Communications Authority of Kenya and the Kenya Films and Classification Board (KFCB) regarding regulation.

“We want the businesses of OTTs to actually be based here. There is a huge debate as to whether we will be billing or charging Netflix, and I think OTT should feel comfortable to invest in Kenya,” said Mr Mucheru in an interview on Tuesday.

GOVERNMENT POLICIES

“The government is responsible for regulation, policy will come from government then it will be regulated, but this will take some time. Regulators have to wait.”

While the CA on Monday said Netflix is exempt from local broadcasting regulations, the KFCB said the company must be subjected to the Kenya film classifications before selling content locally.

“Netflix is an OTT provider where subscribers get the content through Internet protocol, more or less like YouTube, and as such we are not going to ask them to come for a licence,” the regulator said.

Mr Ezekiel Mutua, the KFCB chief executive, on the other hand, said it had written to Netflix raising its concerns on regulation, since it has the mandate to fully regulate its cyberspace.

Facebook has partnered with Airtel Africa in plans to supply high-speed Internet using drones in remote parts of Kenya this year.

As soon as Facebook deploys its services, questions on whether it should be regulated locally are bound to arise.

Regulating OTT players has been a subject of debate in Africa, with telecom firms urging their governments to begin monitoring WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook and YouTube for competing them for voice and text message revenue.