The Asia Internet Coalition (“AIC”) has submitted comments to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (“BTRC”) and the Government of Bangladesh (“Government”) on the Draft Regulation for Digital, Social Media and OTT Platforms, 2021 (“Draft Regulation”).
We understand that in January 2021, the Hon’ble High Court directed the BTRC and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MoIB) to formulate a “guideline to operate OTT (over-the-top) web-based platforms.” Pursuant to the High Court’s order, BTRC has prepared the Draft and invited public consultation.
The unprecedented digital transformation that Bangladesh is currently undergoing poses many opportunities for both consumers and companies offering OTT services.
Rapid Development of Domestic Players: The growth of online services have transformed the economies of both developed and developing countries. This positive effect has clearly benefited small businesses and individuals. Furthermore, the local audience’s appetite for original local content, together with several payment barriers making it difficult to access foreign services, have seen the growth of home grown platforms such as Bongo, Bioscope, Chorki and Binge which are becoming very popular among the public by adding some of their original content as well as allowing them to add international content to the library.
Enhancing the Creative Industry: Online services can increase consumer choice, productivity, and innovation, and give local businesses and content creators access to a global customer base, providing individuals with great choice, also at a lower cost compared to traditional broadcast and media. This ultimately expands the nation’s creative industry and overall economy and helps to export Bangladeshi culture to the world.
Promoting broadband and ICT value chain: It is also important to note that online services are an essential element of the broadband and ICT value chain. Innovation in this field has led to a rich and diverse Internet, and has stimulated consumer demand for broadband Internet access, which in turn is a key driver for network operators’ revenues, incentivising them to upgrade and expand their networks.
As Bangladesh, its people and businesses increasingly benefit from the evolution of the global technology ecosystem, it is essential to avoid introducing rigid frameworks that could impede innovation and competition or cause consumer harm or create obstacles to conducting businesses in Bangladesh. A one-size-fits-all approach to regulating multiple services that are functionally, technically, and operationally different would be problematic and deter growth of the industry as a whole, including local businesses.
In that context, we shared some key concerns with the Draft Regulation, including the following:
- Need for robust safe harbour provisions to limit liability in relation to user generated content;
- Restrictive local presence requirements that impede growth;
- Untenable turnaround time with disproportionate penalties;
- Potential infringement of users’ right to free speech and privacy.