90-minute internet blackout in Bangladesh

Internet-blackout-in-BangladeshDaily Dhaka Times: For the first time in Bangladesh, millions of users were shut out of the internet for about 90 minutes on Wednesday, reports bdnews.

The government move came in the wake of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s hint last week at clamping restrictions on the internet.

Users have said they were unable to access the World Wide Web between 1:15pm and 2:30pm.

The sudden shutdown of the internet adversely hit the aviation business.

Travel operators said they were unable to sell tickets during the blackout and were contemplating calling off flights if the situation rolled late into the evening.

But after the restoration, business has returned to normal.

However, several social media networking sites yet remain inaccessible and some mobile phone apps are still not working.

Shahjahan Mahmood, Chairman of BTRC, the telecoms regulators, told that BTRC had issued directives for closing down four mobile apps – Facebook, Viber, WhatsApp and FB Messenger.

“But there was no directive to shut down the internet,” he said. “The internet could have been shut down as part of a process to ensure that these apps cannot be used in Bangladesh.”

The government blocked some popular calling and messaging services such as WhatsApp and Viber for several days during the three-month agitation of the BNP-led alliance early this year.

Police said they were having trouble tracking down saboteurs as they were communicating via the social media apps.

After the recent killing of two foreign nationals and attacks on police checkposts, Prime Minister Hasina on Nov 8 said the perpetrators were taking advantage of internet-based applications to communicate and evaded detection by the security agencies.

She had hinted at closing down some mobile apps to cut off the militants’ communication and funding.

Wednesday’s development coincided with the shooting of an Italian priest in Dinajpur, and the Supreme Court’s confirmation of the death sentences of Jamaat leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and BNP’s Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.
Police reported the arrests of three men for their suspected involvement in the murder of blogger Niladri Chatterjee Niloy around noon.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Monirul Islam said offenders manipulated the social media and messenger applications and warned that the government might shut these down.

A senior ISP official told that they received BTRC’s directives to block access to Facebook and three messaging applications at around 11am.

Around noon, users were complaining about not being able to access Facebook and Viber. The internet connection finally went down at around 1:15pm.

By 2:30pm, the International Internet Gateway and operators said they had received directives from the BTRC to restore the link.

It may be recalled that in 2008, the military-backed caretaker government had shut down mobile phone services during a curfew but the internet access was left untouched.

The BTRC had once ordered a reduction in internet upload speed but never suspended access to the Web.

Before Bangladesh joined the six international terrestrial cables, users could not log on to the internet every time there were problems with the only submarine cable connection.

State Minister for Posts and Telecommunications Tarana Halim has urged the people to accept the situation in greater interest.

She said the government was also keeping an eye on Twitter, Tango, Imo and several other social networking and messaging applications.

“These [applications] have been shut down in the interest of national security,” Halim added.


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