Image: Taxonomy of internet shutdowns

Internet throttling in Bangladesh: government, telcos must #KeepItOn

Update: December 12, 2022 — Despite global civil society pressure to ensure internet access across Bangladesh, services have been throttled throughout public protests, on International Human Rights Day.

The government of Bangladesh must immediately restore full internet access to all, and commit to stopping the undemocratic practice of internet shutdowns.

A spokesperson for the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission reportedly stated the authority had not interfered with internet access, claiming “it is a technical issue.” However, similar disruptions in mobile services were reported during protests in November, suggesting that the throttling is deliberate.

December 9, 2022 As people in Bangladesh exercise their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly, authorities and telecommunications and internet service providers must keep them connected to the internet. Through an open letter, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition are demanding unfettered access to all people across the country, at all times.

“The government of Bangladesh must not use internet interference to control narratives, or deny people political participation,” said Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager  at Access Now. “By obstructing the rights to freedom of speech, access to information, and the ability to communicate in the build up to International Human Rights Day, authorities are showing disregard for people across the country.”

Trusted #KeepItOn coalition partners have reported internet throttling — or slowing down — coinciding with a violent crackdown on activists protesting, and before a scheduled rally by the political opposition party on International Human Rights Day, December 10

“When authorities push internet throttling or shutdown orders on internet service providers, these operators have a responsibility to the millions of people who rely on them to stand up and fight back,” said Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia Pacific Policy Director at Access Now. “Private companies are not government pawns, they are powerful human rights players who must align themselves with the people.”

Access Now and civil society organizations from across the globe are calling on the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and all public authorities and telecommunication and internet service providers operating in Bangladesh to not take any actions, including during protests, that would interfere with internet access, and to immediately end any current restrictions. 

Read the open letter.