Movement control order making lives tricky for mobile and internet service providers | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 29, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 29, 2020

Movement control order making lives tricky for mobile and internet service providers

Mobile operators' balance recharge has dipped 20 per cent since Thursday as the point-of-sales outlets cannot open for government's movement control order from March 26 to April 4, which will ultimately push the customers out-of-service over next few days.

Internet service providers also raised the same point, saying their bill collection, which takes place in the last week of the month, has been hampered by the voluntary lockdown.

On Tuesday, the public administration ministry declared telecommunication and internet services as emergency utility services, along with electricity, water, gas, fire service and cleaning operations, during the 10-day countrywide closure.

But mobile carriers and the ISPs complained that their employees were physically assaulted by members of the law enforcement agencies at different places across the country over the last couple of days.

The Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB) and the Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB) informed the situation to the policymakers and sought the support of the law enforcers.

"As many as 60 per cent of our POS cannot open their outlets, so people cannot recharge," said a senior executive of a mobile phone operator requesting anonymity.

While customers have the option to top-up using bank cards or the mobile financial service platform, not too many people have these two modes of payment on hand.

This will push a huge number of mobile phone users out of service over the next few days.

The inconvenience comes at a time when the government is asking people to stay at home.

"People are consuming more data for entertainment and making more voice calls than before. This will be hindered if they can't recharge," he added.

Md Emdadul Hoque, secretary general of ISPAB, told The Daily Star that although the government had brought internet services under the umbrella of emergency services and asked that it be maintained round-the-clock, restriction on movement of their staffers was still being imposed.

"We are getting frequent complaints from different parts of the country, where the law enforcers have physically assaulted them for opening their offices."

To run the internet, service maintenance is a must and that requires round-the-clock attention.

Furthermore, their inability to collect bills would pose a huge challenge for them in running their service.

"How are we going to pay the salary of our staff and bear other expenses and even run maintenance work on time from next week?"

Currently, there are 57.43 lakh active broadband connections run by the ISPs, while the mobile operators have 16.62 crore active SIMs, of which 9.42 crore are connected with the internet.

"We would like to request the responsible officials of the law enforcement agencies to communicate with their field officials so that the mobile operators can provide their countrywide uninterrupted services and keep their offices open without any disruption," said SM Farhad, secretary general of AMTOB.

Law enforcers have beaten representatives in several places and forcefully shutdown customer cares, said another executive of a mobile operator.

Contacted, Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar said he had received such complaints from different areas across the country.

"These were unwarranted but isolated incidents. We are trying to communicate with the police high-ups in this regard."

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