THE management of tangled wires of internet and cable television connections hanging overhead, which apparently look discomforting but come to serve essential purposes in a modern city, has so far been caught in a tug of war between city authorities and service providers. The cables also need to be laid out underground to avoid risks of accident, especially as they hang close to or around electric cables, often within an arm’s reach in the crowded Old Town of Dhaka. But the issue has not been adequately attended to. The south city authorities first started severing the overhead cables on September 1, 2020 after the first deadline for service providers to lay out the cables underground expired on August 31, 2020. The city authorities at hand stopped the drive as service providers sought more time for the job and people voiced their objection to the drive that caused sufferings because of disruption in such services, more so at a time when a large number of people worked from home to avoid contraction of the COVID-19 infection and a large number of students had to attend classes online because of a prolonged closure of educational institutions.
As the second deadline expired on December 31, 2020, the authorities started severing the cables again on January 3. The authorities severed cables in a number of areas. The service providers have now decided to take up the issue with Dhaka’s south mayor on January 21 while the city authorities say that further action is pending the mayor’s decision. Service providers seek to say that the latest drive spanning two kilometres have cost them cable worth about Tk 5 million and inconvenienced more than 200,000 users. The Nationwide Telecommunication Transmission Network, heard to have been doing the job of underground cable installation for some years, claims that it has done the job in a number of areas but service providers are not using the network while service providers say that the Nationwide Telecommunication Transmission Network has not been able to lay out the lines underground. The Cable Owners’ Association of Bangladesh says that it roughly caters to 800,000 holdings in Dhaka while the Telecommunication Transmission Network has less than 20 per cent of the areas under its coverage. The city authorities further say that they have allowed cable operators to dig roads without any charge, yet the operators have failed to lay out the cables underground. The medley of claims of having and not having completed the job suggests that it has largely been more of a case of pass-the-parcel game where the main prize — the laying out of the wires to the advantage of all — is yet to be unwrapped.
A lack of experience and the absence of the required machines have also come up in discussions for the delay in efficiently and adequately completing the job. The city authorities need to remove the overhead cable as much to make the city look beautiful as to avoid any risks of accidents. But they also need to ensure that the services provided through the wires, especially the internet and cable television connections, continue without any disruption. The city authorities must, therefore, sit with all the stakeholders and work out a comprehensive plan to get the job done at the earliest.
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