ISLAMABAD: Serious differences have cropped up between the telecom sector regulator and internet service providers (ISPs) as the former wants to implement the central DNS (Domain Name System) while the latter are concerned that the move will make the internet speed slow and its rate costly.

The DNS is a coded system consisting of 12 digits used to identify internet protocol addresses, which translates them into letters to identify a website.

All the ISPs in the country, including Nayatel, PTCL, SCO, Jazz, Zong, TWA, Wateen, Multinet, Nexlinx, Cybernet and KK Networks, attended a meeting recently called by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to discuss the steps for implementing the centralised DNS blocking policy.

The PTA asked them to provide DNS Server IPs which will be white-listed at web-filtering gateways of cable systems supplying internet to Pakistan. Other IPs will be blacklisted to enable the regulator to block all DNS traffic from the country.

Sources in the industry said the operators were concerned that such type of DNS blocking could have huge impact on internet services.

The next meeting on the subject will be held on June 6.

The PTA said it wanted to do impact assessment of such blocking with three of the operators — Nexlinx, Multinet and KK Networks. The other operators have been directed to share their feedback about DNS blocking in the next meeting.

The ISPs were of the opinion that more than 65 per cent of internet traffic in Pakistan was at five Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) — Google, Facebook, Netflix, Akamai and YouTube — and they should be included in it too.

The ISPs also said that if the Pakistan-based DNS was implemented it would make the hosting of these five CDNs very costly and even slow down the internet speed. They also highlighted that internet customers using cloud DNS services would not be able to use such services, as many of them were operating outside the country.

The PTA was also asked about the future of thousands of over-the-top (OTT) applications on mobiles, smart TVs, Android STBs, etc.

The OTT media service is offered directly to the viewers via internet, as it bypasses cable, broadcast and satellite television platforms — the types of companies that traditionally act as controllers or distributors of such content.

“There is no clarity how the blocking of the global DNS traffic will impact the functionality of such applications,” said a senior executive of an ISP.

The PTA has said the move has been initiated to control the downloading of harmful websites which will be blocked, after due process, as these fall in the category of illegal content as per the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act and other relevant laws of the country.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2022

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