The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has set a flat price for broadband internet across the country. At the consumer level, the price of 5 Mbps (megabytes per second) speed internet has been set at Tk 500 all over the country. Apart from this, the price of 10 Mbps will be between Tk 700 to 800 and the price of 20 Mbps will be between Tk 1,100 to 1,200. Users outside Dhaka now have to pay higher in many cases for broadband connection.

The current disparity will be eliminated if one rate of internet is implemented across the country. We welcome and appreciate this initiative. At the same time, however, we believe that maintaining one rate for internet services across the country while maintaining quality standards is undoubtedly a major challenge and the real success of this initiative will depend on tackling this challenge.

During the pandemic, the use and need of internet has increased a lot in the country. Needless to say, the demand for the internet will continue to grow in the future. According to BTRC, the number of broadband internet connections in the country stood at 9.8 million at the end of last March. Even a year ago, the number of connections was less than 1.8 million. This new initiative is great news for software engineers, mobile app developers, outsourcing professionals as well as e-commerce platforms outside the capital.

However, we believe that there are some real problems and complications in implementing one rate of internet across the country. Not all union parishads in the country have yet come under fibre optic cable. Posts and telecommunications minister Mustafa Jabbar, however, has promised that this will happen this year. Internet service providers (ISPs) say bandwidth transport costs more to provide internet services at the union level. Due to these reasons, it is more expensive to provide services in remote areas.

There is no set guideline for bandwidth transport fees for Nationwide Telecommunication Transmission Network (NTTN) and International Internet Gateway (IIG). They provide bandwidth to ISPs. It is a matter of question whether the ISPs can be forced to provide services at a fixed price at the village, union and even upazila level. Because, politically influential people run ISP organisations at the local level.

At present, in many cases, the speed of the internet at a certain time of the day remains slower. Complaints have been made about all this to no avail. A one-time large sum of money is charged to provide internet connection. This also needs a policy. The BTRC does not have the infrastructure and manpower required to oversee these issues across the country.

It is important to ensure that the minimum speed of the internet is 5 Mbps. It is seen that the ISPs do not provide the speed that the customers are promised. In 2018, BTRC set a minimum speed of 10 Mbps for broadband. Whether 5 Mbps speed internet service will be considered as broadband is also an issue.

Bangladesh ranks 58th in the world in terms of broadband internet price. The new initiative may improve that ranking. But the people will only reap the benefits if they get uninterrupted and quality internet service across the country. It is expected that the government will take necessary steps to remove the real problems that may stand in the way.