I traveled to the UAE for work a coupe of times in 2018 and 2019. One of the most surprising things during both trips was the realization that online calls were banned in that country. So for example, calling my family back home in India over Whatsapp was not possible. Duo wouldn’t work, and neither would any other app (save for one weird app that I had never heard of before or since – Botim, I think it was called).
The pandemic meant that Zoom, Google Meet and MS Teams now work just fine (duh), but Whatsapp and FaceTime are still a strict no-no.
Why, you ask?
While Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype for businesses now enable remote work and learning, WhatsApp and Facetime audio and video calls are still banned, the official said. This means residents have to use the paid services provided by telecom operators in the country.https://www.khaleejtimes.com/news/whatsapp-calls-in-uae-talks-to-lift-ban-continue
The key sentence is obviously the last one. The regulation is an attempt to get more people to use conventional (have we reached a stage where we ought to wonder if regular phone calls are still “conventional”?) methods, presumably to help those telecom companies recover their investments. That last bit is a surmise on my part, but hey, what else could possibly explain this?
But its not just the UAE, of course. Here’s England:
CRISTIANO RONALDO makes his long-awaited return to Manchester United this Saturday, in a match against Newcastle. Tens of thousands of fans will chant “Viva Ronaldo” from the stands of Old Trafford, but the match will not be televised live in Britain. Instead, fans not lucky enough to be in the stadium will have to turn up the radio or find an illicit online stream from a foreign broadcaster. The rest of the world can watch the game live. Why are British fans not allowed to?https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2021/09/10/why-cant-english-fans-watch-ronaldos-return-on-tv
Blame the “blackout rule”. On Saturdays only two matches in the Premier League, English football’s top flight, are shown live, at 12.30pm and 5.30pm.
The measure is supposed to encourage football fans to get off their sofas and support their local teams.
I have been watching EPL matches for the past two decades, but have been happily unaware of this rule. I’ve had friends and family both visit and stay in the US, but this rule never came up for discussion. Or at least, I have no memory of speaking/reading about this. But the similarity between the two things we have spoken about is striking, is it not?
In my introductory econ classes, I often speak about STD/ISD booth owners and how they effectively lost their business to those devices that you now carry about in your pockets.
I’m yet to meet a student who thinks that there ought to exist regulations that ban us from using our cellphones so as to protect the employment of STD/ISD booth owners.
As a certain French economist might have said, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.