The country's telecom regulator has instructed mobile network operators to ensure uninterrupted telecommunication services throughout the 12th National Parliament election on January 7.
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has asked them to take all necessary measures to maintain a fully operational network.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the BTRC requested the Road Transport and Highways Department, Local Government Division, Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) and Roads and Highways Department to implement effective measures to prevent damage to underground optical fibre cables during and after the election.
The BTRC mentioned the critical role of those fibres in delivering uninterrupted telecommunication services.
In the statement, BTRC reported frequent fibre cuts during road repairs and other development works, causing disruptions to telecommunications. The regulator said such disruptions during the election could be challenging to repair quickly.
Earlier, Election Commissioner Anisur Rahman urged the BTRC not to shut down networks on election day.
In a separate development, Access Now, the #KeepItOn coalition and other local and international organisations issued an open letter on Thursday, urging both the Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal and BTRC Chairperson Md Mohiuddin Ahmed to ensure uninterrupted access to the internet, social media platforms and communication channels for all citizens before, during and after the election.
It said Bangladesh has a history of weaponizing internet shutdowns to quell dissent, including the suspension of 3G and 4G internet services in the run-up to the general election in 2018.
"In 2022 alone, there were six incidents of reported shutdowns, and authorities have continued to impede internet services in 2023 as well," read the letter.
Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition also urged the authorities to publicly commit to the people of Bangladesh that the internet, including social media platforms, will remain open, accessible, and secure; order internet service providers to guarantee high-quality, secure, and unrestricted internet access; order the telecom regulator to not thwart, throttle, or in any way undermine the safety of internet; and direct internet service providers to keep people informed of potential disruptions and take all reasonable steps to fix any identified disruptions likely to impact their quality of service.
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