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Friday, July 18, 2008

500 Illegal ISPs In Business In Bangladesh

Around 500 unauthorised Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are in business in the city and eating up the market share of the legal service providers, degenerating the quality of internet services for the home users.

So far the Bangladesh Telecommunication and Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has not taken any measure to bring these unauthorised ISPs into the legal framework.

The BTRC officials said they are aware of the problem, adding that it may not be rational to stop all illegal ISPs right away. “It's a matter of thinking a way out of the problem,” they said.

Industry insiders said the non-licensed service providers are mainly young entrepreneurs who use very poor infrastructure, creating a bad impression of the overall industry.

"A reduction in the internet tariff is certainly a significant step to connect the mass. But the quality of service is also very important to reap the benefits of internet," said MA Salam, president of Internet Service Providers Association Bangladesh (ISPAB).

He said it is true that these unauthorised ISPs are taking the connections to the user's doorsteps. “But when the question of quality arises, customers put blame on overall industry for not having satisfactory speed or services,” he added.

A total of 70 authorised ISPs, out of 200 licensees, are operating mainly in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet. The country's total internet home use subscription level is around 7.5 lakh, of which around 6 lakh connections are provided by unauthorised ISPs.

Industry insiders said authorised ISPs usually provide internet connection through fiber optic cable, modem cable or digital subscriber line by which subscribers can get good quality services. On the other hand, unauthorised ISPs usually connect their customers by low quality ethernet cables.

The unauthorised ISPs provide excessive connections from a single hub which slows the speed, said Azhar H Chowdhury, director of Grameen CyberNet Ltd.

He said, "We are not against the unauthorised ISPs. But the regulator should formulate a policy for them so that they are able to provide quality services to the customers."

Low quality internet service is not a new issue for the city's home users. In most cases customers get themselves connected from the nearest service providers without knowing their service quality.

"I have taken a connection from the nearest IT shop. But it takes at lest 10 minutes to open a website. Downloading something takes more than an hour,” said Al Mahmud, a service holder in Mohammadpur.

Like Mahmud, many home users in the city are now experiencing low quality internet services.

"No one, not even the regulators, takes responsibility for the low quality internet services," said ISPAB president. He said, "We repeatedly informed BTRC, pleading them to solve the issue. But they remained silent."

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