Reporters Without Borders condemned the tightening grip of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) on the country’s Internet after it ordered all access providers to supply details of their customers, in a bid to combat illegal Internet telephone services.
The site E-Bangladesh reported that providers received an order at the end of September to supply names, addresses and connection details of clients, and to monitor traffic with software provided by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an anti-terror unit which reports to the interior ministry.
“This is a very worrying situation,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “Flushing out illegal phone services does not require a file on every customer. The Internet should be regulated, but it is overdoing it to want to control it in this way”.
“Asking so much detail about citizens of a state under the pretext of regulating the network is a disproportionate step. We urge the regulatory commission to relax this measure,” it added.
A number of small operators have become serious competitors of the state-owned Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) in the past four years, in the absence of regulation of Internet telephone services. Since January this year, the BTRC has been looking for a way to counter these illegal operators and announced that it would be issuing licences.
The representative of Bangladesh Internet service providers told the BBC Bengali service on 5 October that what was at stake in the decision was simply to establish a control mechanism of services provided to Internet-users. There has been a robust online response and Bangladesh bloggers have fiercely criticised the BTRC action.
Bangladesh has nearly 207 service providers for around one million Internet customers, of whom 450,000 are already affected by these measures, in the cities of Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet.