Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has rejected a Facebook’s proposal to launch its Express-Wifi project in the country on grounds of security and licence-related issues.
The decision was made at a recent commission meeting with its chairman Md Jahurul Haque in the chair.
US-based social media giant has no licence to operate such service in Bangladesh, said senior BTRC officials, adding that a recent incident of Facebook users’ data leak was also a key consideration.
In September 2018, Facebook announced that it had discovered an attack that exposed personal details of 50 million accounts.
The Express-Wifi project was aimed at creating an entrepreneurial grassroots base for Facebook’s Wi-Fi service by creating hotspots in different places across the country.
The mobile operators and internet service providers would be working with local entrepreneurs who want to resell internet access in their own communities, as per the proposal of Facebook.
The partners would set the prices, but Facebook would provide the software.
BTRC officials said that the social media giant in its proposal also mentioned that it would share revenue with all the parties including the government.
As per the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Act, 2001, no entity is allowed to install or operate any telecommunication system without having a valid licence.
Facebook, in its plea for launching the Express-Wifi project, mentioned that it would use its cloud service along with utilising internet or data access of internet service providers in the country, thus raising possibility of complexity in ensuring security as Facebook is not a licensee in the country.
Besides the telecom act, BTRC’s instruction for providing service through 2.4 and 5.7 gigahertz band in Bangladesh also bars any entity except mobile phone operators from providing such service.
Facebook first began testing its Express Wi-Fi four years ago, and has since expanded the service in several countries including neighbouring India.
Earlier, Facebook had tried to address the needs of developing markets via its zero-rating program ‘Free Basics’.
The program faced criticisms over net neutrality concerns, as it only provided access to specific web sites – like Facebook.
India eventually banned that program in 2016.
Express Wi-Fi, however, provides unrestricted access to the web, not a selection of pre-approved sites and services.
Facebook has so far carried out a range of connectivity initiatives including OpenCellular, rural access programs, drones, and other infrastructure projects.
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