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January 19, 2016

Govt allows access to local version of YouTube

Top Story

January 19, 2016

ISLAMABAD: On the recommendation of PTA, the government has allowed access to the recently-launched country version of YouTube in Pakistan.

After formally launching the telecom policy 2015 here on Monday, Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rahman told journalists that Google has launched the country version of YouTube after which the PTA would be able to block any unwarranted material within hours. 

Now the PTA has written a letter to the Supreme Court of Pakistan requesting it to withdraw its earlier communication regarding imposition of a ban on YouTube in Pakistan, she said, and added now YouTube was restored in the country. 

“Yes, we have given directives to the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to allow access to YouTube in Pakistan,” official sources in the PTA confirmed to The News here on Monday.

However, according to an announcement of the Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT) on Monday, Pakistan has allowed access to the recently-launched country version of YouTube for Internet users in Pakistan. 

YouTube was previously blocked on the recommendation of the regulator i.e. PTA in order to fully comply with the order of the  Supreme Court concerning the blocking of the blasphemous movie “Innocence of Muslims” on YouTube and other websites in September 2012 as at that time it was not technically possible to block the offending material on YouTube without blocking the YouTube at the IP level. 

Recently, Google has launched a country (localised) version of YouTube (YouTube.pk) and confirmed that YouTube.pk does not contain any known copies of the blasphemous movie “Innocence of Muslims”. Moreover, in case any copy of the offending material appears on YouTube website in future, Google has provided an online web process through which requests for blocking access to the offending material can be made by the PTA to Google directly and Google/YouTube will accordingly restrict access to the said offending material for users within Pakistan.

Earlier, on January 16, 2016, PTA had brought the above developments to the notice of the Supreme Court vide a report filed in continuation of its earlier compliance report filed with Supreme Court on 17.9.2012. Subsequently, PTA, while withdrawing its earlier recommendations sent to the Ministry of IT on 17.9.2012, also requested the Ministry of IT to review the earlier directions. 

The Ministry of IT, in view of PTA's withdrawal of its earlier request of blocking YouTube at IP level and considering the recent developments elaborated by PTA, has accordingly allowed access to the country version of YouTube and has also directed PTA to ensure continuous compliance with the Supreme Court under the revised mechanism.

Meanwhile, the government on Monday formally launched the Telecom Policy 2015 that was approved the ECC under the chairmanship of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. Minister of State for IT Anusha Rahman said on the occasion that Pakistan became a leading country with respect to accelerated growth and development in the IT and telecom sector. 

She said that two-and-a-half years ago, all the key posts at the ministry and PTA were vacant and the system was being run on ad hoc basis, adding that grey trafficking was at peak at that time. 

Anusha Rehman said that grey trafficking has now come down to a negligible level while white traffic increased to over 1.5 billion minutes. The cyber law is being finalised in consultation with stakeholders while the IT policy would be announced in the current year.

She further said that broadband service penetration was less than three percent while little work was done with respect to the Universal Service Fund (USF).  Jeffrey Hedberg, CEO Mobilink, said on the occasion that through partnership among the stakeholders, this sector is being recognised inside as well as outside the country.

The telecom policy, he said, is an excellent document which will become a catalyst to accelerate the industry’s growth as it is the beginning of the beginning and best of the best. CEO Ufone Abdul Aziz said there was need for practical solution and the policy needs to be implemented to achieve the desired goals. 

Fan Yunjun, Chairman and CEO Zong, termed the policy a good achievement and congratulated the government, saying the policy would play a pivotal role in the acceleration of digitalisation in the country.

CEO Warid Muneer Farooqui said that it would have been better, if the policy was announced earlier as it was due since long.

Chief Corporate Affairs and Security Officer Telenor Aslam Hayat said the industry has great potential which needs to be exploited. He said that a few years back, Pakistan was not even a member of the ITU. However, hard work and collaboration of the industry and ministry has changed things.

Chief Commercial Officer of PTCL, representing the President Walid Irshad, said taxes on the Internet needed to be addressed for providing an enabling environment that allow the broadband services to flourish.