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Old April 11, 2007, 01:44 AM
Banglatiger84 Banglatiger84 is offline
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Angry BBC Article - VOIP Ban in Bangladesh

BBC has an article detailing the govt's crackdown on VOIP. IMO, this is perhaps the only area where the govt has acted stupidly so far.

In the name of not getting taxes, they have made communication difficult between family members living abroad. There are cases where a husband is unable to reach his wife and kids, or a son is unable to contact his sick and aged father.

Given that the ones leading the drive against VOIP probably are able to make free phonecalls as part of their perks, they are least bothered about how the greater public suffers. Isnt this a case of government extortion? Of course they have the right to collect taxes, but in the case of VOIP , they should have acted with more prudence.

Whats next? Maybe they will ban photocopying of university books as its againstc opyright and force poor students to pay TK 3000 for original American published books ?

The VOIP Ban doesnt affect me by the grace of Allah, however, it pains me to see so many Bangladeshis finding it difficult to reach their loved ones on telephone.

It pains me far more than seeing the govt being deprived of taxes to pay for the perks and luxuruies of the likes of Lt. Col. Zia Safdar.


Bangladesh stuck in telecoms jam

By John Sudworth
BBC News, Dhaka

Many depend on mobile phones to talk with relatives abroad

Hidden away beneath the bustle of Dhaka's streets, for the past few years an illegal but highly lucrative business has been growing in size.
A network of privately owned computer systems has been busy carrying thousands of international telephone calls into Bangladesh over the internet.
Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP, is a technology in use across the world, and in most places, perfectly legal.
It allows telecoms companies, often those selling pre-paid international phone cards, to route large volumes of calls very cheaply anywhere in the world, by buying space on broadband computer links and computer servers.
But now the illegal system has hit a major problem.
"It used to cost one or two pence a minute to call home," says Hossein, a worker in a Bangladeshi restaurant in London.
"Now we call but we cannot get through, we try again and again, but we just can't get through."
Corruption charges
VOIP has remained illegal in Bangladesh in an attempt by the government to protect the state-owned telephone company, the Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board.
People are facing big problems getting connected in Bangladesh. It is creating a kind of traffic jam - all the time it is busy, busy, busy

VOIP entrepreneur, Hassan

But it simply hasn't worked. Earlier this year it was estimated that VOIP calls accounted for up to 80% of the total telephone traffic from abroad.
There have been rumours that some high profile politicians and businessmen have themselves been operating VOIP internet exchanges.
They have had an interest in keeping the industry outside of the law, it has been argued, as the longer it remained unregulated the longer they did not have to pay tax on the huge revenues it generated.
For whatever reason little action was taken against the VOIP providers and their existence seemed likely to continue to be tolerated.
But then Bangladesh found itself under a state of emergency.
For the past three months the country's new military-backed government has been waging war on what it sees as the too-long tolerated illegality and corruption of the past.
Wealthy and powerful politicians have been arrested and are facing corruption charges.
'Busy, busy, busy'
Thousands of illegally built shops, businesses and slums have been torn down. The VOIP industry has gone the same way.
"They have already taken my equipment from one of my places. This is huge equipment, 11 gateways and 22 modems, many pieces of equipment, maybe $60,000 worth," Hassan says..
Small telephone vendors used the cheap VOIP providers' rates

He is one of the young entrepreneurs who made a very good living running the illegal internet phone services, selling space on his computer equipment to foreign phone companies.
But he says closing him down, and others like him, has thrown the system into chaos, as hundreds of thousands of people try to call home with fewer and fewer lines available.
"People are facing big problems getting connected in Bangladesh," he says. "Most are not getting connected. It is creating a kind of traffic jam - all the time it is busy, busy, busy."
Lt Col Zia Safdar is the man who has been leading the drive against the illegal telephone businesses.
He says prior to the raids the size of the industry was enormous.
"At one stage we were a little surprised," he says. "We knew that they were handling a large volume of calls, but we found it was a huge quantity."
As all of it was generating money untouched and untaxed by the government they had no choice but to act he adds, telling me that the government is now trying to rectify the problem.
It is very important that telecommunication should function well and this needs to be corrected as soon as possible

Anwar-ul Alam Chowdhury

The number of conventional phone circuits is being doubled to at least 30,000 by the end of April, but Col Zia admits that for a country of 140 million people this will still be too few.
Anwar-ul Alam Chowdhury is president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Association.
He says there are ways round the problem, using e-mail for example, but a functioning international phone network needs to be re-established in the long run.
"Calling from outside Bangladesh is really tough," he says. "It is very important that we have to trade and we have to communicate.
"It is very important that telecommunication should function well and this needs to be corrected as soon as possible." There is widespread popular support for the emergency government here. People have welcomed the anti-corruption measures and the arrest of high profile individuals on corruption charges. But there is also concern that some of its actions are hurting those it is meant to be helping. Giving the many overseas workers the chance to once again phone home would be welcomed too.
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Old April 11, 2007, 02:52 AM
Banglatiger84 Banglatiger84 is offline
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Read this letter on an online blog, it represents the views of many NRB's who are unable to properly contact their family members in Bangladesh.

I liked the point about BTTB. Really, BTTB was extremly corrupt for God know s how long. Now to fill their pockets, VOIP is being clamped down upon. Great, first take bribes from us, then make us suffer claiming you are not getting due taxes.

This clampwdown will also discourage young entrpreneurs as they see their equipment stolen by the government.



While I and all my siblings are living outside Bangladesh, my elderly parents live in Bangladesh. Daily phone calls from me and my siblings used to keep them going with their lonely life.

There are hundreds of thousands of non resident Bangladeshi and as a consequence, in a situation similar to us, there are thousands of lonely elderly parents who are emotionally dependent on overseas calls from their children.

Not only the emotional factor, in this globalized world, many family
matters, business issues and social issues also depend heavily on instructions via overseas calls.

Over the last week I failed to call my parents. Neither of my siblings could make any call. I am hearing the same story from the Bangladeshi communities across the globe. Among them, someone has sick parents; someone's wife was expecting a baby. There is a sudden feeling of helpless disconnection and distance.

This sudden loss in connectivity with Bangladesh is being blamed by
the non resident Bangladeshi community as the result of current law enforcement offensive on illegal VoIP business.

While we understand, VoIP was illegal, but it was serving millions of Bangladesh. Why suddenly demolish a service industry without ensuring
a backup plan for unhindered flow of the service? Rather than totally
destroying the industry could not the government take steps in
bringing the VoIP service under tax blanket?

We all understand that BTTB is losing revenue. We do not want that. But we also can raise the question that how much the nation will benefit with a revenue fat BTTB? What BTTB has given us since
independence? It takes a nearly lifetime to get a land line
connection. It is absolutely impossible to get a service from BTTB without bribes or phone calls from powerful people. Bribery by BTTB linemen has taken the form of extortions.

With VoIP the young entrepreneurs were giving an extensive overseas
telecommunication service that was very cheap too. Definitely making a
way to tax these services would have helped the national exchequer as well as the NRBs. But what is the logic of discarding an easy, cheap new technology of VoIP for an expensive and cumbersome technology currently used by BTTB. I am yet to understand the logic, why a VoIP operator will have to pay fees to BTTB if they do not use BTTB service at all i.e. if the call terminates in a private operator run mobile phone?

And at the same time NRBs will be happy to see some action on those
who are involved in larger scale crimes, criminalization of the
society, politics and the administration; not only on the young technologically savvy small scale entrepreneurs.
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Old April 11, 2007, 01:33 PM
imtiaz82 imtiaz82 is offline
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The government should legalize VOIP and bring them under the tax network. That way it would be beneficial for everyone..

From US, so far I am getting connected fine, except the price per min has increased.
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Old April 11, 2007, 05:50 PM
imtiaz82 imtiaz82 is offline
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Opening up VoIP to pvt sector
awaits chief adviser’s nod

Zahedul Islam A proposal for opening up VoIP or internet telephony to the private sector for an interim period through the submarine cable gateway to facilitate cheap overseas calls is awaiting the nod of the Chief Adviser’s Office.
Officials of the posts and telecommunications ministry said they had sent the proposal to the Chief Adviser’s Office in the first week of April, with a set of recommendations made by a government committee, seeking permission from Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed to issue Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) licences to private operators.
A seven-member committee headed by Saiful Islam, a professor of the BUET, in March recommended that private operators should be allowed to route their VoIP traffic through the existing data transmission gateway of the submarine cable for an interim period until the state-owned Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board completes the setting up of its VoIP platform.
The nine recommendations also included allowing private operators to set up VoIP platforms in addition to the one planned by BTTB, increasing the capacity of BTTB’s international voice circuit, exploring the possibility of joining another undersea cable as a back-up for SEA-ME-WE-4, setting up a technical monitoring committee comprising officials of BTTB and intelligence agencies, and punishing illegal VoIP operators.
The government in February formed the committee to suggest various options to immediately open up the VoIP for a temporary period as overseas communications faced a severe setback following raids by the Rapid Action Battalion on dozens of VoIP outfits this year to stop illegal business in Bangladesh.
The Chief Adviser’s Office, however, questioned the ministry on how much it would take for the BTTB to set up four VoIP exchanges in Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet and Bogra to route and monitor the VoIP traffic to ensure that the government would earn its due revenue from the sector.
‘We have answered all queries and hope to open up the VoIP within the shortest possible time once the chief adviser approves it,’ said a senior official of the telecom ministry.
The BTTB has also started installing the necessary equipment for augmenting the capacity of the data transmission gateway to pave the way for opening up the VoIP, also referred to as IP telephony or internet telephony, for the interim period.
The VoIP, a technology that enables transmission of voice data in a digitised packet through the internet, remains illegal in Bangladesh as the government did not issue licences to private operators although Khaleda Zia’s cabinet approved the legalisation of internet telephony in November 2003.
According to various estimates, the state-owned BTTB, which alone has the authority to provide overseas calls, loses about Tk 600 crore a year in revenue because of illegal IP telephony

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