Cellular operators have reached out to Ministry of Information Technology to ask the government for damages against two instances of service suspensions ordered by federal government in last two months, we have confirmed officially with three cellular operators.
Federal Government had asked the cellular operators to suspend mobile phone services in four cities on Eid Night this year on August 19th, 2012, while service was again forcefully suspended in 15 population rich cities on Ishq-e-Rasool Day on September 21st, 2012. Both service suspensions were ordered due to security reasons.
Mobile phone operators are of the view that Telecommunication Act 1996 gives them this luxury of being getting compensated by the government in case of any forced service shut down due to national security.
Section 54 of Telecom Act talks about service suspension during war or hostile situations. It reads as following:
54. National Security
(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, in the interest of national security or in the apprehension of any offence, the Federal Government may authorise any person or persons to intercept calls and messages or to trace calls through any telecommunication system.
(2) During a war or hostilities against Pakistan by any foreign power or internal aggression or for the defense or security of Pakistan, the Federal Government shall have preference and priority in telecommunication system over any licensee.
(3) Upon proclamation of emergency by the President, the Federal Government may suspend or modify all or any order or licences made or issued under this Act or cause suspension of operation, functions or services of any licensee for such time as it may deem necessary.
Provided that the Federal Government may compensate any licensee whose facilities or services are affected by any action under this sub-section.
Officials of mobile phone companies weren’t optimistic of getting the compensation, in fact they didn’t seem serious enough to get the damages. Rather the focus is on putting pressure on the government to stop service suspensions in future.
Sources, who are directly dealing the situation, told ProPakistani that they will be contented even without any compensation, given the government agrees to not to issue such orders in future.
Ignoring Customers’ Monetary loss
Cellular operators have probably forgotten the loss of mobile phone customers, as no one is perusing or talking about the loss that customers had to bear.
During both service shut downs, all postpaid customers were charged with usual daily rental, in addition to service charges deductions that prepaid customers pay against bundles, services, LBC offers and so on.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority is quite on the issue, which is (as per law) primarily responsible for ensuring customers’ rights and safeguarding the industry.