Bangladesh to witness social media or internet blackout

Vijaya Laxmi Tripura

A kind of madness by some vested interest group is becoming clear centering the upcoming general election in Bangladesh. Their agenda is to make the election totally controversial thus leaving a wrong impression about Bangladesh to the international community. Within less than 24 hours of the disturbing controversy centering delay in issuing visas to the international observers and subsequent statement from the US Department of State, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) is sending a proposal to the Election Commission expressing its willingness of shutdown of mobile internet services or a block on all social media sites for the December. According to media reports, 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 is learnt from credible sources that the government is proposing a complete shutdown of mobile internet, while BTRC said, a complete shutdown of mobile internet would be a huge blow to many sectors inside and outside the country. An indefinite shutdown or partial blocks would impact local and international businesses, different service sectors, ATM services, e-commerce and communications but saving lives was more important than all that.

The telecom watchdog, in its second option, said they could block social media and video-sharing sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, along with other communication applications – Whatsapp, Viber, WeChat, Imo – for an indefinite period, which it believes, “would be less harmful” than the first option.

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.

The fourth option is to block mobile internet services in certain areas.

Army deployed:

Members of the Armed Forces have already been deployed throughout the country with magistracy power to maintain law and order situation. Prior to the December 30 general election, massive demonstrations as well as terror attacks by ULFA-ARFA nexus is being anticipated.

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