PTA issues clarification, says has not implemented centralised DNS control

Contrary to media reports on Tuesday, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) explained that it had not implemented centralized Domain Name System (DNS) controls.

DNS is a coded system of 12-digit numbers used to identify Internet Protocol addresses, which translates into letters to identify websites.

The statement came later profit magazine report Telecommunications sector regulators say they want to implement a system that is considered an onslaught on the fundamentals of the Internet’s infrastructure.

In Op-Ed for SerbUsama Khilji, Director of the Digital Rights Advocacy Forum, if fully implemented, “will significantly slow down internet speed in Pakistan, increase the cost of internet services, infringe on privacy and effectively hinder the expansion and development of Pakistan’s IT sector. Technology and related service.”

However, in a statement released today, the PTA said it had only implemented “automating illegal content blocking” under section 37 of the Electronic Crime Prevention Act (Peca) of 2016.

“Contrary to claims, the PTA does not implement centralized DNS control,” the statement said.

Regulators say blocking illegal content is already in place.

However, he added that, in accordance with the policy guidelines of the Pakistani government, an automated process through domain name verification was implemented at the ISP level to increase efficiency.

“This has been achieved through consultation with Pakistan’s ISPs and extensive due diligence.”

The PTA said recent developments did not affect increases in the cost of Internet services and did not slow down Internet speeds or affect the privacy of citizens “as misrepresented in some media reports”.

In addition, the statement “will not affect our current contract with a content delivery network (CDN),” it said.

PTA versus ISP through domain policy

Earlier this month, it was reported that the former wanted to implement a centralized DNS, but the latter feared that the move would slow down the internet and make it expensive, creating a serious gap between telecommunications sector regulators and ISPs.

All ISPs across the country, including Naayatel, PTCL, SCO, Jazz, Zong, TWA, Wateen, Multinet, Nexlinx, Cybernet and KK Networks, attended a meeting convened by the PTA to discuss the steps to implement a centralized DNS blocking policy.

The PTA has requested that the web filtering gateway of the cable system supplying the Internet to Pakistan provide its DNS server IPs to be whitelisted. Other IPs are blacklisted so that regulators can block all DNS traffic from that country.

Industry sources said operators are concerned that this type of DNS blocking could have a significant impact on Internet services.

The PTA said it wants to conduct an impact assessment of these blockings with three operators: Nexlinx, Multinet and KK Networks. Other operators have been instructed to share their feedback on DNS blocking at their next meeting.

ISPs believe that over 65% of Pakistani internet traffic comes from 5 CDNs (Google, Facebook, Netflix, Akamai and YouTube) and they should be included in that too.

The ISP also said that hosting these five CDNs would be expensive and slow internet speeds if DNS based in Pakistan was implemented. They also emphasized that Internet customers using cloud DNS services will not be able to use those services because they are operating abroad.

The PTA has stated that action has been initiated to control downloads from harmful websites that will be blocked due to the legal process as it falls under the category of illegal content under Peca and other applicable laws in the country.