Open Letter to Prime Minister Pakistan, Imran Khan
Your attention is direly needed for addressing the digital crisis and students’ struggle for internet amid the Coronavirus pandemic in the difficult terrain of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Gilgit-Baltistan is among one of the peripheral chunks of Pakistan which has been hard hit by the digital divide. After lockdown, triggered by the CoVID19 pandemic, the students and diaspora of Gilgit-Baltistan living in metropolitan cities moved back towards their homes.
The sudden rush caused a chasm in digital connectivity, as a mammoth mammoth number of users started using the available bandwidth and infrastructure operated by the army-owned Telecommunication Service Provider, i.e., Special Communication Organization (SCO) – the only service provider of Fixed Broadband Internet and Mobile 4G services in GB, under the Ministry of Information Technology.
A large number of students have not been able to attend their online classes and participate in exams conducted by their universities and college, due to slow internet. Eventually, forced by the lack of facilities, many students had to drop and freeze their semesters.
In addition, the returned diaspora has had to face a challenging situation due to bad internet facility in the region because their employees require them to work from home, which is not possible without fast and reliable internet connection. This situation has led to a lot of resentment and frustration in the region.
On July 12,2020, the Chairman of CPEC announced that the Optical Fiber Cable has been operationalised from Khunjrab (Gilgit-Baltistan) to Islamabad. Unfortunately, Gilgit-Baltistan has not been linked to the recently laid Optical Fiber, which passes through the region. This situation has causes anger and resentment which has led to protest demonstrations in different parts of the region.
In the past, a delegation was dispatched by the Federal Government to take local leadership of Gilgit-Baltistan in loop regarding CPEC projects and Optical Fiber. A lot of promises were made with the locals, but they have not been fulfilled.
This situation ha increased grievances of the populace, especially the students suffering from bad internet connection, and distorted and congested mobile coverage in Gilgit-Baltistan. For lack of these facilities, the youth of Gilgit-Baltistan, who are no less in terms of talent or ambition, cannot keep pace with their peers living in the cities.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) needs to take immediate steps to complete technical and legal proceedings to push other telecom operators to start seamless 3G/4G services in GB.
The jurisdiction of Universal Service Fund (USF) may be extended to GB in order to improve telecom network and coverage.
Sir, you are requested to take pragmatic steps and direct the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, Ministry of Information Technology, Frequency Allocation Board, Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly and other stake holders to resolve the internet Issue in the region.
The students of Gilgit-Baltistan look forward to you as last resort because their education is at stake.
Thanking you in anticipation
#Team Internet for Gilgit-Baltistan