On 30 July 2020, the Myanmar Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) directed all mobile phone operators in Myanmar, including Telenor Myanmar, to extend the Internet restrictions on 3G and 4G services in all eight townships of Rakhine and Chin States. 2G services will be available in addition to voice and SMS, as per the directive. The throttling of 3G and 4G services went into effect on 1 August at 10.00 pm local time. The MoTC cites prevention of acts of terrorism as reason to continue Internet restrictions until 31 October 2020.
Telenor Group is deeply concerned that eight townships continue to lack meaningful Internet services, and for the impact on civilians. Since the first directive on Internet shutdown in June 2019, Telenor Group and Telenor Myanmar have been in continuous dialogue with the authorities of Myanmar to promote restored services, but we are disappointed to see lack of significant development.
In Telenor Group and Telenor Myanmar’s communication with relevant local authorities and stakeholders, such as the MoTC and the Office of the State Counsellor, we have conveyed our position that freedom of expression through access to telecoms services should be maintained for humanitarian purposes, especially during times of conflict. We have also stressed to local authorities that the shutdown adversely affects hundreds of thousands of civilians, as their access to information and services that are vital to their livelihood is being restricted for a long period. In addition, the current global pandemic only amplifies the need for access to information.
In an effort to mitigate some of the adverse impact of the Internet restrictions and enable continued communication, Telenor Myanmar has reduced international call rates for the affected townships.
Given the prolonged Internet restrictions, Telenor Group and Telenor Myanmar continue to protest against the restrictions, and advocate towards authorities, in addition to local and international stakeholders, to mitigate impact on civilians and to fully restore the Internet and data services.
We strongly urge the authorities of Myanmar to lift the Internet restrictions in the eight townships as soon as possible.