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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 15:49 GMT
Bangladesh net providers cut off
By Waliur Rahman in Dhaka

The Bangladesh Government has cut the telephone connections of more than 60 internet service providers (ISPs).

Telecommunications Minister Aminul Haq says the ISPs' failure to renew their licences had prompted the action.

But the association of internet service providers says the move is part of a crackdown on the use of internet telephony - particularly for international phone calls.

This practice bypasses the normal telephone exchange and is reportedly depriving the government of huge amounts of revenue.

User problems

The government's action has created severe difficulties for more than half of Bangladesh's 100,000 internet net users.

Bangladeshi government worker
Government institutions are also affected

With no prior warning, thousands of internet users found they couldn't log on despite repeated attempts.

Government institutions were not spared and the Science and Technology Ministry couldn't find its website.

Users were later told by ISPs that the state-run Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) had disconnected their phone lines.

The BTTB says the lines were disconnected following an order from the ministry, as they were closely monitoring ISPs engaged in illegal voice transmission operations.

Internet misuse

The practice of using the internet to make international calls without going through the local exchange may be allowed in many countries, but is illegal in Bangladesh.

There have been allegations that a number of ISPs have been offering cheaper call charges on international calls.

The BTTB recently blocked outgoing calls by ISPs, but officials claim this did not make any significant impact as service providers adopted alternative means to cheat the state telecom.

Major international operators recently complained to the BTTB that calls routed through them to Bangladesh have been dipping dangerously, a fact reflected in the revenue generated by the telecom industry.

Industry reaction

The president of the association of ISPs, Mohammad Akhteruzzaman, says he would welcome a move to punish any of the members found violating the laws of the land, but there must be a thorough investigation.

The software industry says the dispute could have a negative impact on their business because it will be very difficult for them to convince world information technology players that Bangladesh has a reliable internet backbone.

Bangladesh has more about 100 licensed ISPs.

See also:

09 Jul 00 | South Asia
Bangladesh passes IT copyright law
27 May 98 | From Our Own Correspondent
Burdened by Bangladeshi bureaucracy
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