Bangladesh holds internet blackout drill to deal with emergencies like Dhaka terror attack

Internet service providers and mobile-phone operators have launched a drill to shut down services immediately should there be a need for emergency response to terror attacks like the Gulshan one.

Senior CorrespondentShamim Ahamed, bdnews24.com
Published : 1 August 2016, 07:53 PM
Updated : 1 August 2016, 08:35 PM

Internet service providers and mobile-phone operators have launched a drill to shut down services immediately should there be a need for emergency response to terror attacks like the one on Gulshan cafe.

The drill started in a commercial area of the capital Dhaka around 1am on Tuesday.
 
“We’ve started work,” telecom regulators BTRC Chairman Shahjahan Mahmood told bdnews24.com minutes after the drill began.
 
The mobile-phone operators also tested out their capabilities to shut voice services.
 
A special team of BTRC supervised the drill.
 
A BTRC official said a commercial district was chosen for the drill since it remains almost empty after office hours.
 
“The capacity to close voice call service along with internet connection is being tested,” he said.
 
But the test blackout of voice services were being held for a ‘short time’ so that the subscribers will not be able to realise it, added the official who declined to be named for the story.

On July 1, gunmen took a number of hostages at Holey Artisan Bakery and O’ Kitchen in Gulshan. 

They killed 20 hostages and two policemen before the security forces stormed the cafe next morning.

The militants also reportedly sent images of the bloody carnage site to ‘someone’ outside. The photos were later published in Islamic State’s so-called ‘Amaq’ news agency.

Broadband internet connection was shut in the area on that day to stop the militants from communicating with others outside the cafe.

Mobile-phone voice service and internet, however, were not taken down as the security forces were also using them.

Following the attack, several quarters discussed whether there is a way to stop data transfer without interrupting voice call services and it has led to the blackout drill.

The telecom regulators started testing the capacity to shut specific internet contents after Monday midnight.

The ISPs were asked to block some web pages and the BTRC monitored whether they could do it.

It was also tested whether the security forces could use their communication devices during the blackout.

Earlier in the day, Mahmood had said the blackout would take place anytime between Monday afternoon and midnight in different parts of the capital.

He said all types of internet services, including mobile intrenet and broadband, will cease to work during the blackout. 

“It might last from 15 to 30 minutes.”

The BTRC chief, however, said they will not be able to inform users beforehand. “We have to live with minor problems for the sake of the greater good.”

ISPs said they had received the BTRC instruction in writing.
 
“The BTRC has sent a directive on a drill to shut services immediately in the wake of an emergency.”
 
“The drill is to check whether IIGs, ISPs and NTTNs could go for a total closure immediately,” said Emdadul Haque, the general secretary to the ISP Association of Bangladesh.

According to the BTRC, 27 IIGs and 490 ISPs operate in Bangladesh.

The number of internet users was 63.2 million in June. Of them, 59.6 million surf the web on mobile devices.

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