Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has been instructed by the Ministry of IT & Telecom (MoITT) to take action against those individuals or service providers who cause damage to the infrastructure of Mobile and fixed-line operators across the country.
“Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs) and Fixed Line Operators (FLOs) have requested support for conceivable actions against miscreants who cause damage to the telecom infrastructure across the country,” MoITT’s letter to Chairman PTA read.
“It is necessary that being an essential service, telecom services, and infrastructure installed nationwide is protected for service and business community,” it added.
The instructions also include action on complaints related to ‘assault or intentional obstruction’ to the staff of licensed mobile and fixed-line operators engaged in the provision of telecom services.
“All such complaints may be followed-up with FIA for subsequent action against the culprits as required under the law,” the letter said.
The move comes after complaints of infrastructure damage, often intentional, piled up from different cellular and internet service providers.
Cybernet, a prominent internet service provider, also registered a complaint with PTA in mid-April, saying that its fiber optic cables in different cities were damaged by miscreants during the lockdown, causing disruption to users of its consumer broadband service, StormFiber.
In its letter to the PTA, Cybernet stated 19 different incidents of deliberate sabotage on its infrastructure by miscreants and competing operators have been recorded so far. The company provided evidence of complaints filed at various police stations; however, concrete action is still awaited.
The company had previously escalated the incidents to the CM Punjab and IG Police but hadn’t been able to obtain any relief.
A representative from Cybernet stated, “It is unfortunate that despite investing billions in deploying state of the art fiber broadband infrastructure and contributing some of the highest taxes to provincial and federal governments on internet in the world (19.5% provincial tax, 12.5% advance tax, 8% minimum income tax for example), fiber broadband providers have failed so far to get credible assistance from the provincial state machinery to protect local consumers and investment – even in the pandemic.”
We are glad the PTA has finally taken cognizance of this matter and escalated the matter to the FIA, he added. The company says it looks forward to working closely with the FIA to get justice.
After the damage is done, these essential service providers are forced to restore the infrastructure within minimum possible time to meet PTA QoS and to provide uninterrupted services to the customers.
These companies recommend that PTA nominate enforcement officials who must visit the spot as soon as the incident occurs so that it may collect the necessary evidence to its satisfaction and the matter proceeds for speedy justice.
Mobile operators and ISPs like Cybernet deem it necessary for PTA to chalk out a comprehensive plan to tackle the challenges of damages caused to fiber cables, and hope that the FLL Operators, PTA, and FIA would work in cooperation to end the malicious activities.
The MoITT instructions come at a crucial time when home connectivity needs have seen a sharp surge as people switch to work- and study-from-home models amid the virus lockdown.