Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has sent to the posts and telecommunications ministry draft guidelines on regulating and licensing of internet service providers after more than a year of putting the guidelines on hold.
The telecom regulator initiated the fresh move following an instruction of prime minister’s information and communication technology adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy.
Since 2014, the telecom regulator took a number of attempts for formulating guidelines on ISP business.
In 2017, when the commission was at the final stage of formulating guidelines on ISP business, the telecom ministry had instructed BTRC to refrain from framing the guidelines at that moment.
A strong opposition from ISPs forced the government to hold the formulation of the guidelines.
The latest instruction of the PM’s ICT adviser prompted the telecom regulator to send the guidelines to the ministry for approval, a senior official of the commission told New Age on Thursday.
He said the fresh draft guidelines which were sent to the ministry on Thursday got BSEC approval at a recent commission meeting.
To avoid any opposition from the ISPs, the commission held a number of meetings with leaders of Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh and Cyber Café Owners Association of Bangladesh.
BTRC officials said that the commission had already addressed most of the concerns raised by ISPAB and CCOAB at separate meetings held in January this year.
Based on the proposals made by the entities, the commission reduced licensing and annual licence renewal fees significantly.
Once the guidelines are approved by the ministry, the guidelines would be published for taking public opinions.
The guidelines would be finalised after taking public opinions into consideration, officials said.
They said that guidelines had become a crucial requirement for improvising quality of services as many ISPs were providing substandard services to their subscribers.
Any further delay in guidelines formulation would make it difficult for the telecom regulator to establish discipline in the ISP business.
The guidelines, which were drafted in 2017, proposed nationwide ISPs licence acquisition fee at Tk 25 lakh along with Tk 5 lakh annual licence fee.
The urban service providers will have to pay Tk 15 lakh in licence acquisition fee along with Tk 3 lakh in annual licence fee.
Currently, nationwide and urban ISPs have to pay Tk 2 lakh in licence acquisition fee and Tk 1 lakh in annual licence fee.
Central zone ISPs pay Tk 1 lakh and Tk 50,000 in licence acquisition and annual licence fees respectively. The zonal ISPs pay Tk 30,000 in licence acquisition fee and Tk 10,000 as annual licence fee.
Licence acquisition fees for ISPs of C, B and A categories range between Tk 1,000 and Tk 10,000.
According to the latest BTRC data, 1,478 entities are operating ISP business across the country. Of them, 146 entities provide nationwide internet, 103 central zone, 49 zonal, 703 A category, 73 B category and 404 C category.
In 2017, the number of ISPs was 499 in the country.