12:00 AM, December 24, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:11 PM, December 24, 2018

Shutting down mobile internet or social media?

BTRC places 4 options to EC over the election day

A complete shutdown of mobile internet services or a block on all social media sites for the December 30 election day are two of the four options that the telecom regulator will place before the Election Commission today.

BTRC will place the options in a meeting with the EC in Agargaon, where representatives of different law enforcement agencies will also be present.

Md Jahurul Haque, acting chairman of the telecom regulator, said BTRC would inform the EC about its capabilities regarding the time it would take them to execute the options and the final decision would be taken by the EC.

Earlier, law enforcement agencies had suggested that the EC make a decision on downgrading mobile internet speed to 2G level on voting day.

EC Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed had also confirmed to journalists that they would seriously consider entirely blocking or partly blocking mobile internet services or decrease internet speed.

“It will be an EC call and we will take preparation according to their direction as BTRC have no issues here. We have already deployed a team to help them round the clock,” Haque added.

According to the regulator, a complete shutdown of mobile internet would be a huge blow to many sectors.  

An indefinite shutdown or partial block would impact local and international businesses, ATM services, e-commerce and communications but saving lives was more important than that, said a commissioner of the regulator, requesting anonymity.

 Such a shutdown be  against the spirit of “digital Bangladesh”, said another top BTRC official related with the process.

The telecom watchdog, in its second option, said they could block social media and video-sharing sites like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, along with other communication applications -- Whatsapp, Viber, WeChat, Imo -- for the time being, which would be less harmful.

The third option is downgrading the wireless mobile communications technology from 4G and 3G to 2G.

The telecom regulator's engineers visited all the mobile phone operator offices to find out how long it would take to block 3G and 4G services and the time it would take to block the services in select parts of the country.

It would take 15 to 20 minutes to downgrade the mobile networks to 2G and block 3G and 4G services that are mostly used for mobile internet, reads BTRC's option.

According to the regulator, users will not be able to upload pictures or videos if the mobile internet speed is brought down to a minimum level.

To block mobile internet services in certain areas, which is the fourth option, it would take more than two hours for small areas and while for larger ones could take up to four hours.

“Whatever the EC chooses, we will comply and our special team will be ready to work round the clock on voting day,” said the commissioner.

There are currently no such plans regarding broadband internet services.

According to BTRC, as of October 2018 the total number of active mobile internet users stands at 8.83 crore.

Following requests by different law enforcement agencies, the telecom regulator at different times minimised mobile internet speeds. BTRC had decreased internet speed for 24 hours following a recommendation by law enforcement agencies during the demonstrations for road safety in August.

The telecom regulator has already blocked some websites in the country, leading to users facing different problems when using Google services including Gmail, Google Ads, Google drive and cloud service.

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