ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has said that it is unable to control social media, calling it a matter of social responsibility.

“It is a responsibility of society and users to ensure the effective usage of social media sites,” PTA Chairman Syed Ismail Shah told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday, adding that the authority has “already disseminated the message to users in this regard”.

Mr Shah said that the authority cannot regulate the affairs of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp because they are not PTA licensees.

He said the PTA has signed a memorandum of understanding with Google regarding uploading content, but they do not have a formal agreement.

Induction criteria stands in the way of PTA bid to recruit hackers for cybersecurity, PTA chairman tells PAC

He told the PAC that the PTA is interested in recruiting hackers for matters related to cybersecurity, but is having problems with the induction criteria.

He said the government has devised a procedure for the appointment of staff which would not suit hackers, adding: “If the government wants results, the PTA would be given a free hand to induct the hackers of their choice.”

He also said the PTA is working on setting up Internet exchange points to prevent cyberattacks.

An Internet exchange point refers to physical infrastructure through which Internet service providers and content delivery networks exchange Internet traffic between their networks (autonomous systems).

He said an Internet exchange point has been established in Islamabad, and work on establishing them in Lahore and Karachi is ongoing.

Mr Shah added that Pakistan has four submarine fibre optic cables, and the PTA is working on adding at least three more.

The PTA has also adopted new technology to disable stolen mobile phones even after the International Mobile Equipment Identity has been changed, he said. The technology would also be applicable to Chinese mobile phones through a SIM-based system.

Cellular industry revenue

Mr Shah told the PAC that the number of mobile network subscribers in Pakistan has reached 140 million.

He said under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), cellular coverage would be enhanced because the infrastructure would be laid down along CPEC routes.

The PTA chairman also revealed that during the last fiscal year, the telecommunications industry generated $4 billion and paid Rs160bn in taxes to the Federal Board of Revenue.

He also admitted that the authority does not have data on the sales of mobile network companies’ recharge cards, and they rely on calculations by the concerned firms.

However, he claimed the system is transparent and the volume of taxes paid by the telecommunications industry makes up about a third of total tax collection.

In response to a question from the committee, Mr Shah said cell towers are not hazardous to health as presumed, as the radiation may have little impact on an individual living under a tower.

PAC Chairman Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah directed the PTA chairman to take measures to recover $800m from Etisalat, saying the government handed over Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation properties to the company but had yet to receive the sum from Etisalat.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2017

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