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Morocco, WhatsApp, With Viber, FaceTime & Skype?

Hicham Zerhouni
Hicham Zerhouni is a 2015 New Leaders Council Fellow. He Obtained his BA in Political Science 2006 and a Master’s Degree in Political Science in 2011from from Northeastern Illinois University. Hicham is the Managing Principal of TransCultures a ...
Morocco, WhatsApp, With Viber, FaceTime & Skype?

Chicago – In a very sudden and unexpected, yet irrational and backward step, Moroccan telecommunication companies Maroc Telecom, Meditel, and Inwi cut Morocco’s Voice over IP (VoIP) services without any notice to their clients. Legally, they can. Since the Moroccan Telecommunication Law grants the rights to VoIP services only to companies holding a license to operate in the country. For now, only those three companies hold that right.

According to article 1 of the decision ANRT/DG/ 04-04 of April 6, 2004, written in French, the colonial and unofficial language of Morocco, “only companies holding a license can operate VoIP services in the kingdom”. This grants the right to Maroc Telecom, Meditel and Inwi to deny 34 million Moroccans and businesses this service.

Now could this decision have serious political, social and economic ramification on Morocco? How does it hurt small and medium businesses and how does it affect Morocco’s competitiveness on the global scale? How does this decision affect average low-income Moroccans while having no impact on large companies who will continue to use these services via a VPN? Will this decision help Morocco’s over-saturated telecommunication market in attracting new investments in telecommunication? Or is it a warning sign for investors about the unstable business climate Morocco is going through?

How does it affect Morocco’s competitiveness?

A country’s competitiveness is determined by many factors: one of them is the ability of its citizens and businesses to communicate freely without any restrictions. Even the most “greedy” capitalist systems in the advanced industrialized world grants free and open communication to all, especially when it comes to VoIP (USA, Canada, France…).

In these “greedy capitalist societies,” operators have a better service at a cheaper rate while offer VoIP free of charge to their clients. Morocco’s operators barely embraced 4G, with a mediocre infrastructure and very slow internet. They offer their services at a higher rate when compared to other operators around the world. Now they even cut the affordable services that allow people to communicate with each other. The decision made by the three companies reminds us of the behavior of some totalitarian regimes such as (Iran, Syria, and N. Korea), which restrict free and open communication using different methods.

Canceling VoIP services affects Morocco’s competitiveness as a small to medium business destination as well. For many small to medium businesses, VoIP is an affordable way to do business and communicate with their satellite and virtual offices who might be located in Morocco. Many US and European small businesses started opening subsidiaries in Morocco; they use services like FaceTime, Skype, Viber and What’s up to run operations across the Mediterranean or the Atlantic. This decision will definitely affect their overhead, and deter future small to medium businesses from investing in Morocco… a country without Skype.

How this decision affects low-income citizens but not large companies

While this decision might have come as a last resort for Morocco’s telecommunication companies to maximize their already high profit margins, it directly affects low-income Moroccan citizens. As many Moroccans cannot afford to pay the phone bill, they resort to using affordable VoIP services to communicate with their families and loved ones. They do not use it for free, as they are required to have a 3G /4G phone with paid data services or connected to a WIFI internet connection.

This decision deprives a great portion of the Moroccan society of its basic right of communicating. Morocco’s construction and agricultural sectors, which employ over 50% of Moroccans are facing hard time. Most of people working in these sectors cannot afford to pay the high phone bills, and were relying on these affordable services to communicate with their families and loved ones.

Conversely, this decision does not affect large companies who might be abusing the networks and slowing them down. This includes some call centers that use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), a technique that tricks the operator into thinking that the IP address is not local, to bypass the operators’ restrictions.

While the decision of blocking all VoIP services in Morocco might bring some financial benefit to the Moroccan operators by bringing the paid call time to its historic pre-internet levels, it sends alarming signals to the global business community that Morocco is taking a step-backward into the dark ages of no or low-communication.

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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy

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Comments (4)

  • me

    noooooooooooooo i dont like this why make it so difficult for the people why why .my man is in marocco .i dont know .bring him to me in the netherlands than .even that is not so easy because off the fucking politics pfffffffffffffffffffff stupid stupid .i hope they will find a other way .because paying telephone is expensive.even for me in the netherlands so .cut the boundries open .so i can have my real love next to me .

  • askrem

    In Morocco we take one step forward two steps backwards we always behind the rest of the world.

  • Str8up-Kenya

    This is a very unfortunate decision by the phone companies as it shows selfish greed. It also gives us an idea that either the relevant government authorities are also sleeping at the wheel. maybe complicit with the decision or no one is watching over the phone companies. One would expect this kind of behavior from Putin or North Korea

  • Agadir Alife

    There are obviously people who do not understand the implication of this imposed restriction. There is no way of “not using these Telecom companies”….there is no alternative.
    The fibreglass connection has been made available to very selected areas and at a cost of about 100U$ per month….not viable or even considerable to most people with an average income of just 350U$
    VoIP is a necessity these days, not only for private people, it is a tool used in most businesses. Does the taxman really loose many if VoIP is enabled? Most probably not, because Morocco will grow on the international market with tools available to connect with partners instantly.
    But, it appears that some politicians slept while the important parts where discussed….or even never see further than their toes…

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