Boycott telecom services

Jojo Puthuparampil is a business news writer for Inc. Arabia.

In protest against a potential move to impose monthly fees for using apps like WhatsApp and Viber to make calls, social media activists in Jordan called for a boycott of telecom services for 24 hours at the end of last week.

In messages circulated on social media and messaging apps, activists called for removing SIM cards from phones for a whole day to push telecom operators into rejecting the potential fee.

The fee is likely to be JOD2 per month.

“At least authorities learned that Jordanians are able to stand together against injustices, instead of being passive—a trait they have always been accused of,” Hasan Shobaki, who works in a supermarket in Zarqa, 23 kms from Amman, told The Jordan Times.

If a substantial number of people listen to these calls, customer service departments at telecom companies will inform the management of how “dire” the situation is, according to one message.

Telecom operators are all affiliated with companies abroad, it added, which means the response will be “swift”.

Ola Khawaja, a 34-year-old private company employee, said her family adhered to the boycott because they had “had enough of the government’s ways of dealing with economic challenges”.

“Even if no significant outcomes are achieved by the campaign, at least people have made their point against injustice,” Khawaja said.

While some users said social solidarity is one of the main achievements of the boycott and that the move would cause losses for telecom companies, others seemed to disagree.

They cited the fact that a vast majority of Jordanians are on pre-paid subscriptions. Therefore, turning off mobiles will not be effective as people have already paid for using telecom connectivity.

“There is no way the mobile companies will lose if you had already paid your monthly subscription and turned your phone off for one day,” said Ghaleb Qariouti, who uses WhatsApp.

People should have refrained from renewing their subscription for at least one week, said Fadia Odat, another user.

According to estimates, there are more than 3 million WhatsApp users in Jordan. Industry analysts say it is difficult and unrealistic to impose fees on such services, as there are technological solutions to bypass any restrictions.

Also, many alternatives to these apps exist online.