LAHORE: Users on Wednesday reported widespread internet connectivity issues caused by a blockage by the national telecommunications regulator, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), under new rules introduced to curb grey traffic.
PTA has since denied that the disruption in the internet service has anything to do with the authority and that it might be “service disruption at a local level”.
Users across the country reported massive ping and packet losses, making the internet sluggish enough to disrupt all sorts of internet-related operations in business and domestic usages such as making VoIP calls and multiplayer gaming.
The social media was inundated with complaints, with #BanPTA trending on social media platform Twitter after the outage, which became more inconvenient because the regulator did not inform about it to users beforehand.
“While the overwhelming complaints are coming from gamers and service providers, some parents are facing issues with their baby monitors as well,” said Haider Toor, a resident of Lahore. “I can’t use my camera because it’s not streaming properly anymore and I can’t monitor my baby if I have to be away,” he added.
“Call centers, internet VPNs, gaming servers, affected countrywide, apparently by PTA’s blocking. Business @ snail speed,” a user tweeted.
Call centers, Internet VPNs, Gaming servers, effected countrywide, apparently by PTA’s blocking. Business @ snail speed. pic.twitter.com/pGUXNd3Mjm
— Wahaj Siraj (@WahajSiraj1) September 24, 2020
Talking to Profit, PTA denied that it was responsible for the outage and said that they would be issuing a statement in this regard to clarify.
“In view of complaints posted on social media about degradation of internet service particularly gaming apps, PTA has carried out investigations. It was found out that apparently service degradation faced by users is because of bandwidth issues being provided by some operators. PTA has directed service providers to check upstream bandwidth and connectivity issues to resolve them at the earliest,” the PTA statement, which was issued later on Thursday, read.
On Wednesday, the PTA on its official Twitter handle wrote: “With respect to social media posts about packet loss being experienced by some consumers while using gaming apps, it is clarified after checking from internet bandwidth providers that internet traffic including gaming apps are currently working normal across Pakistan. No service degradation has been experienced.”
With respect to social media posts about packet loss being experienced by some consumers while using gaming apps, it is clarified after checking from internet bandwidth providers that internet traffic including gaming Apps are currently working normal across Pakistan.
— PTA (@PTAofficialpk) September 23, 2020
“Attributing the packet loss to PTA without ascertaining factual position or clarifying with PTA is uncalled for and disappointing,” the statement on the social media said.
Though PTA also acknowledged that there might have been service issues in specific areas, which may be reported to service provider or PTA as a complaint which can then be duly fixed.
To curb grey traffic, in June 2020, the PTA had started the registration of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), and warned that IP addresses with unregistered VPNs would be blacklisted.
In its statement to Profit, the PTA had maintained, “The exercise is being undertaken to promote legal ICT services/businesses in Pakistan and to ensure the safety of telecom users.”
In a report, Profit had highlighted the problems that could stem from the fact that small IT businesses and startups dependent on VPN usage to serve their clientele could face disruptions and severe hardship in light of the PTA’s decision to ban its usage.
Likewise, not only would this cripple such businesses but also severe their lifeline and revenue stream making them go kaput.
The ban on unregistered VPNs was followed by PTA blocking the widely popular online game PlayerUnknown’s BattleGround (PUBG). The ban, though challenged, was retained following an order by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) after a hearing conducted by PTA on July 9,2020 and in accordance with the provisions of PECA 2016.
Both the bans had added to users’ frustrations, with today’s development involving PTA’s blocking of internet service adding insult to the injury.