- No more cables will be removed, assures telecommunications minister
- ISPAB will go on strike from next week if their demands remain unaddressed
- A meeting between the DSCC and ISPAB is scheduled to be held on Sunday
The Internet Service Provider Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB) and Cable Operators Association of Bangladesh (COAB) have postponed their countrywide three-hour daily strike that was supposed to start Sunday.
The two platforms took the decision following a meeting with the Posts and Telecommunication Minister Mustafa Jabbar and State minister for ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak on Saturday evening.
However, they will further decide regarding the matter after a meeting with Dhaka South City Corporation officials, which is scheduled to be held tomorrow.
"We hope to find a satisfactory solution from the authority within this week. Otherwise we will go for a strike from next Saturday," said MA Hakim, president ISPAB.
Leaders from COAB echoed the ISPAB leaders' statement regarding the issue.
The development came as the ministers requested the associations postpone the strike considering the unavoidable demand for the Internet in daily life.
Addressing the ISPAB leaders, Mustafa Jabbar said, "We are living in a time where nothing can be imagined without the Internet."
"Almost everything – including education, medical, banking, insurance, office, court, mobile banking, and mobile services – are dependent on the Internet," he said.
Assuring a proper solution to the issue, he said "Tomorrow [Sunday] we are going to discuss the issue with the prime minister. We hope she will give us a proper solution. Until then, I would request that you postpone the strike."
Mustafa Jabbar assures the ISPAB and COAB that their cables will not be removed any more until a decision comes from the prime minister.
Asking them to halt the strike for a week, State Minister of ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak said, "We already discussed the issue with the Dhaka South City Corporation's mayor and other officials concerned. Trust us, a solution will come soon."
Previously, on 12 October, ISPAB announced a countrywide shutdown of the Internet, data connectivity and associated services from October 18, from 10am to 1pm, daily, to press home their demands.
They demanded the city corporation stop removing overhead cables, the government fix the Nationwide Telecommunication Transmission Network's (NTTN) charge for data transmission and set up a committee – comprised of the ISPAB, COAB, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, NTTN, and the city corporations – to conduct a field level investigation whether setting up underground cable connections is feasible.
Currently, around 85 lakh out of 10.80 crore internet subscribers in the country use broadband internet connections.
The service providers – ISPAB and COAB – claimed that the Dhaka South City Corporation started removing overhead cables from all roads in August to beautify the city without serving any prior notice to internet service providers and cable TV operators.
In the last two months, ISPAB and COAB members have faced an estimated loss of Tk20 crore due to the removal of cables, the organisations claimed.
The decision to postpone the strike came as great big relief to industries, banks and e-commerce companies that were anxious about keeping their operations running.
Syed Mahbubur Rahman, managing director and CEO of Mutual Trust Bank Limited, told The Business Standard that the strike will create havoc in the banking sector.
He said, "If ISPAB discontinues internet services, it will be a major issue for the banking sector as all online services – like local and international trade services, swift services, internet banking services, ATM, remittances, and e-commerce – everything will shut down."
"There is no alternative to broadband internet to keep the service uninterrupted. A branch can operate with emergency arrangements like dongles. But core banking is not possible with this system," Syed Mahbubur Rahman added.
Digital trade and transactions have been increasing amid the Covid-19 pandemic as people are avoiding cash-based trade.
Muhammad Abdul Wahed Tomal, general secretary of the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh, said the sector already facing some issues related to internet as the overhead internet cables have been cut down in different areas of the capital.
"Online sales and shopping will be affected badly if ISPAB discontinues the service in the peak hours of the day. Digital shopping companies will also see a big fall in daily orders," said Muhammad Abdul Wahed Tomal.
He urged the government to come up with a proper solution to the issue.