Internet in Bangladesh
Like many developed and developing countries, the Internet in Bangladesh has witnessed significant growth. Although facing many constraints in expanding Internet access and use, development of the Internet and Information Technology are high government priorities. In December, 2017 Internet users in Bangladesh increased to 80.483 million.
Starting in the early 1990s, Bangladesh had dialup access to e-mail using the Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) of a few local providers, but the number of users did not total more than 500. Users were charged by the kilobyte and email was transferred from the BBS service providers to the rest of the world by international dialup using UUCP.
In June 1996 the first VSAT base data circuit in the country was commissioned and the Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) granted licenses to two Internet Service Providers (ISPs). In subsequent years more liberal government policies led to a rapid expansion of the industry, resulting in over 180 registered ISP's by 2005. ISPs are currently regulated by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) through the Bangladesh Telecommunications Act.
In May 2006 Bangladesh inaugurated new submarine optic fiber connectivity as part of the 16 country consortium SEA-ME-WE 4 project. The landing station is in Cox's Bazar, the southern city near the Bay of Bengal. In July 2008 the Submarine Cable Project was transformed into the company Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited (BSCCL), which is now responsible for all services related to the submarine cable.
Between June and August 2012 international Internet service in Bangladesh was slowed following a cable cut on the eastern leg of the SEA-ME-WE 4 optical fiber cable and the fact that Bangladesh does not have an alternative submarine cable or other high-speed international connections. In 2014 the new SEA-ME-WE 5 cable is expected to provide an alternative operating at 100 Gbit/s, roughly 10 times faster than the current connection.
The number of Internet subscriptions in Bangladesh grew from 186,000 in 2000 to 617,300 in 2009. However, only 0.4% of the population used the Internet in 2009 giving Bangladesh one of the lowest usage percentages in the world, ahead of only North Korea, Myanmar, and Sierra Leone. This limited Internet penetration is due to many factors, including: unavailability in rural areas, high costs, little local content, limited or poor service quality, lack of infrastructure with the last mile often limited to dial-up, too many providers competing in a relatively small market, and low literacy rates. By 2011 however, the number of Internet users in Bangladesh had seen phenomenal growth of over 900% bringing the total number of users to 5,501,609 (3.5% of the total population) mainly due to wide availability of mobile Internet access.
In April 2010, Akhtaruzzaman Manju, president of Internet Service Providers' Association of Bangladesh, said "we've estimated that nearly 10 million people in the country are using 800,000 Internet connections on sharing basis", adding the number of Internet users in the country is increasing roughly 15-16 percent a year. "This increased Internet penetration will result in a 2.6 per cent contribution to the country’s GDP by 2020, while creating 129 thousand more jobs by the same year" the research added.
The main obstacle to using the Internet in Bangladesh is its distribution. The Internet is still an urban privilege because telephone connections are more concentrated in urban areas, particularly in and around Dhaka. Mobile operators are providing substantial services in and outside urban areas using 3G/EDGE or WiMax.
However, recently Bangladesh has seen phenomenal growth in Internet usage. Due to government various initiatives known as a2i project (open Hotspot zone, government offices with internet facility, Reduce bandwidth price etc.) have impacted the growth of users. As of December 2017, internet subscribers have reached 80.483 million users.
The Internet’s speed in Bangladesh is not among the fastest in the world but it has significantly developed in the recent past. As of July 2015, Bangladesh ranked 90th out of 198 countries on the Household Download Index by Net Index.
Internet connectivity with acceptable quality and reliability is generally quite expensive in Bangladesh. Since connecting to the SEA-ME-WE 4 cable in 2006, the country has seen Internet bandwidth prices drop significantly. In 2008, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) slashed wholesale Internet bandwidth prices drastically, from BDT 80,000 (approximately US$1,125) per Mbit/s to BDT 18,000 (approximately US$250) per Mbit/s. In 2009, after complaints that retail prices were still too high for slow, unreliable connections, the BTRC indicated that they were going to begin monitoring ISPs to ensure that retail prices reflected the reduced wholesale prices.
The government sees information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a key driver of socioeconomic development. This is reflected in the government's "Digital Bangladesh" plan as well as the National Information and Communication Technology Policy. Bangladesh is slowly moving up in the worldwide ICT rankings, rising from 130th in 2009 to 113th in 2012 in the "networked readiness index". But, while its ITC ranking has improved, Bangladesh still lags behind other low-income countries of its stature. Progress is limited due to deficiencies in the regulatory framework and infrastructure development. And ICT leaders are concerned that the annual budget does not support the government's ICT goals.
National Internet Exchanges (NIXs) and International Internet Gateways (IIGs)
All ISPs and equivalent service providers in Bangladesh exchange traffic via two systems, the National Internet Exchange (NIX) and International Internet Gateways (IIGs). The IIGs provide global Internet connectivity, while all domestic Internet traffic is routed via the NIX to minimize usage of international bandwidth. The NIX consists of two exchange points known as the Bangladesh Internet Exchange (BDIX) established in August 2004 and operated by the Sustainable Development Networking Programme and the Peering Society of Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Society of Internet Exchange (BSIX) established in May 2004. In June 2012 the BTRC announced plans to issue an unrestricted number of additional NIX licenses. There are two IIGs in service operated by, Mango Teleservices Limited and the government owned Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL).
There are concerns that, with a limited number of NIX operators, only two IIG operators, and with BSCCL holding a monopoly as the only operator of the SEA-ME-WE fiber optic cables, limited competition will keep the cost of raw bandwidth high.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
In 2005 there were more than 180 ISPs operating in the country. ISP's are regulated by the BTRC. In 2016, there were 119 licensed ISPs providing services nationwide and 65 ISPs providing services in the central zone.
Because fixed line penetration rates are and are expected to remain low, most Bangladeshis' first experience with the Internet is likely to be via mobile services. An estimated 90% of Bangladesh's Internet users got their access using mobile services in 2010. Out of the Four mobile operators, Teletalk, Grameenphone, Robi, & Banglalink offer 3G, 4G services in 64 districts of Bangladesh, others offer 3G, 4G Internet service on some specific areas and EDGE or GPRS GSM Internet service on rest of the areas. Operators are working on expanding their 3G, 4G services on all areas. The sole CDMA operator, Citycell, offers EVDO. Airtel Bangladesh merged with Robi.
Broadband Internet and e-commerce in Bangladesh is slowly progressing. In 2009 there were 50,000 fixed broadband Internet subscribers. However, In March 2016 there are currently 3.112 million ISP/PSTN users. Though broadband Internet access is available, the charges for high speed connections are higher than in other south Asian countries, though this is changing. In Bangladesh Broadband is legally defined as 128/128 kbit/s, which is not in line with the ITU's definition and many broadband Internet services may not be considered true broadband internationally.
Three companies, BanglaLion Communications Ltd., Brac Bdmail Network Ltd., and Augere Wireless Broadband Bangladesh Ltd., won licenses to operate WiMAX in Bangladesh in September 2008. The three firms purchased the licenses at auction for 2.15 billion BDT (US$31 million) from the BTRC under an agreement that pays 27.50% of revenue to the government. Brac Bdmail declined to start the service. BanglaLion and Augere (branded as Qubee) launched commercial WiMax services by the end of 2009.
From October 2011 Access Telecom (BD) Ltd. and Tackyon started giving fixed WiMax services to their clients.
Cyber cafés and Local Service Providers (LSPs)
Expensive and slow connections available from individual homes has created a demand for cyber cafés with higher than average bandwidth. The number of cyber cafés was estimated to be roughly 800 in 2009, unchanged from 2005. Cyber cafés were first regulated by the BTRC in 2009, but fewer than 150 had obtained the required license by the end of 2011.
Many cyber cafés have expanded as Local Service Providers (LSPs) as a way to make use of their idle (out of business hours) bandwidth. Because the root problem of scarce bandwidth remains, LSP subscribers continue to suffer from slow connections and inadequate bandwidth (96-128 kbit/s on average). A general complaint of customers and internet users is that such subscriptions are good for nothing except for surfing rich-text and images over the web. The younger internet users in the urban areas have started to familiarize themselves with other more data demanding internet applications and usage. But streaming applications fail to work over low bandwidth. Games, voice, video-conferencing and the like also suffer from latency issues. Further, these LSPs are known to forcefully cache web resources (transparent proxies) and to aggressively block traffic related to the following applications in order to save bandwidth: Windows update, TeamViewer and similar remote assistance applications, Torrent trackers and other P2P ports/patterns, voice/video applications which mostly make use of P2P architecture, online gaming and just about anything else except WWW. Some LSPs generally block all ports except HTTP/HTTPS. Bandwidth/latency benchmarking sites including SpeedTest.net are blocked to stop customers from complaining about their share of bandwidth.
Despite these limitations, LSPs succeed by keeping the majority of the customers happy with local FTP servers, mostly filled with unlicensed movies, software, games and TV shows.
Internet censorship and surveillance
The OpenNet Initiative found little or no evidence of filtering in 2011.
Although Internet access in Bangladesh is not restricted by a national level filtering regime, the state has intervened to block Web sites for hosting anti-Islamic content and content deemed subversive. Internet content is regulated by existing legal frameworks that restrict material deemed defamatory or offensive, as well as content that might challenge law and order.
The Bangla blogging platform Sachalayatan was reported to be inaccessible on 15 July 2008, and was forced to migrate to a new IP address. Although the blocking was not officially confirmed, Sachalayatan was likely Bangladesh’s inaugural filtering event. YouTube was blocked for a few days in March 2009 in order to protect the "national interest". The disputed video covered a partial audio recording of a meeting between the prime minister and military officials, who were angry at the government’s handling of a mutiny by border guards in Dhaka that left more than seventy people dead.
Facebook was blocked by the BTRC for 7 days starting on 29 May 2010 because of "obnoxious images", including depictions of Mohammed and several of the country's political officials as well as links to pornographic sites. The block was lifted after Facebook agreed to remove the offensive content. During the same period a 30-year-old man was arrested in the Bangladeshi capital on charges of uploading satiric images of some political leaders on Facebook.
The BTRC again blocked YouTube access in September 2012 after Google, Inc. ignored requests to remove the controversial film, Innocence of Muslims, from the site.
On 16 May 2013 BTRC asked the international internet gateway operators to reduce the upload bandwidth of ISPs by 75% in an effort to prevent illegal VoIP. There is speculation that the bandwidth reduction is actually an effort to make it difficult for people to upload ‘problematic’ videos, images, TV talk show clips, etc. in the social media.
In November and December 2015, the government blocked Facebook and other social media, for a period of twenty-two days. The purpose was to quell militant violence and opposition unrest as reactions to a death penalty to two opposition leaders, Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mujahid, for war crimes committed in the 1971 independence war.
Internet top-level domain
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- Cyber laws in Bangladesh
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