Netflix has received its first major blow to international expansion in Indonesia. A state-run telecommunications firm has blocked the service, citing concerns about the content, and accusing the company of not having a necessary business permit. The move raises the question for Netflix of how to handle both private and public opposition to its global proliferation; Indonesia’s government has denied a role in the telco’s block.
Telekomunikasi Indonesia’s (otherwise known as Telkom) director of consumers Dian Rachmawan told The Jakarta Post: “We block Netflix as of Jan. 27 at midnight. The issue is about the permit. They don’t follow the rules. They also display violence and adult contents.”
Even though Jakarta has said it is not behind Telkom’s move to block the service, this decision confirms what many were waiting for regarding Netflix’s pending success as an international service — that many governments are going to have a problem with either Netflix’s content or its swift takeover (or both). But Telkom Indonesia’s block represents a particular obstacle for Netflix as Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world behind China, India, and the U.S. And China was not on Netflix’s list of countries when it announced its expansion. So to not have a presence in two of the top four is a blow.
But likely not a big enough blow to dissuade Indonesian users from accessing Netflix. The country has a swiftly growing internet user-ship, with startups abounding, foreign companies looking to invest in tech there, and internet expansion projects in the works. With technological advancement comes both increased access to tools such as virtual private networks, and the debate on censorship. Indonesia seems to be experiencing both; users will no doubt turn to VPNs to access Netflix, and the government has historically struggled with allowing total web freedom versus containing political dissension online.
Additionally, Telkom representatives have emphasized that other internet service providers are still allowing access to Netflix, so it might be a matter of waiting to see if customers defect to other providers to gain access to the service. If a large chunk does defect, that will speak to Netflix’s power with Indonesia’s web users. And despite only having around 28% internet penetration according to Statista, the country still stands at nearly 1 billion internet users because of its high population. There is a lot of room for growth for Netflix, even without the support of the country’s largest telco.