Telecom operators worry as Dhaka plans tough law

Sunday, June 13, 2010

DHAKA - Investors and telecom service operators in Bangladesh are worried at the government’s move to bring in a stringent law that has provision of arrest without warrant, no scope for appeal and a heavy fine, to punish wrongdoers.

The government has moved to amend the telecommunication law to punish telecom operators without giving them scope for challenging the regulator’s decision.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication (Amendment) Act 2010, already approved by the cabinet, will be placed in parliament to have a stringent legal framework for telecom operators.

The bill proposes unilateral changes in clauses in an operator’s licence by the regulator and arrest of telecom stakeholders without any warrant, The Daily Star said Sunday. It also has the provision of slapping a fine of Taka three billion ($43.2 million) as punishment.

It also has a few clauses outlining the way to bring VoIP (voice over internet protocol) business under a legal framework.

If the bill gets through, telecom operators will not have a chance to appeal against the regulator’s decision, the newspaper said quoting unnamed legal experts.

All offences would be considered cognisable and the regulator or police could file a case even on suspicion, and arrest any operator official without a warrant.

Telecommunication penetration is only 34 percent in Bangladesh. More than 56 million people now use mobile service while about 1 million people have access to the internet.

Among the recent entrants in Bangladesh’s telecom field is India’s Bharti Airtel, that acquired stake in Warid Telecom and will be investing in telecom infrastructure.

European Union, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and investors in telecom sector in Bangladesh had sought the prime minister’s intervention to have a law that will help increase telecom penetration in the country.

Telecom and ICT stakeholders in several meetings with government officials have urged that the provisions of harsh punishment be dropped.

Oddvar Hesjedal, chief executive officer of Grameenphone, said: “We cannot go for appeal against any decision taken by BTRC (Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission). This seems unconstitutional.”

Hesjedal said many operators are hesitating to go for 3G (third-generation mobile technology) because of the proposed amendment.

Hasanul Haq Inu, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on post and telecommunications ministry, said the committee would oppose the proposed amendment.

Filed under: Economy

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