The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) released a clarification on Tuesday saying that, contrary to media reports, it has not implemented centralized Domain Name System (DNS) control.
DNS is a 12-digit coded system used to identify Internet Protocol addresses, which translates them into letters to identify a website.
The statement came after a Profit magazine report said the telecoms regulator wanted to implement the system, which is seen as an attack on the fundamentals of internet infrastructure.
In an editorial for DawnUsama Khilji – the director of a digital rights advocacy forum – wrote that if fully implemented, it would “significantly slow down internet speed in Pakistan, increase the cost of internet services, compromise privacy and would effectively hamper the expansion and advancement of Pakistan’s IT technologies and related services.”
However, in the statement released today, PTA said that it had only implemented “mandate blocking of illegal content automation” under section 37 of the Privacy Act 2016. prevention of electronic crimes (Peca).
“Contrary to claims, PTA has not implemented centralized DNS control whereby all resolution will be done centrally by PTA. Instead, resolution will be done on the Internet Service Providers (ISP) side” , the statement said.
The regulator said the blocking of illegal content was already underway.
However, to improve its efficiency, an automation process through domain name resolution at the ISP level has been implemented as per the policy guidelines of the Government of Pakistan, the statement added.
“This has been done in consultation and careful deliberation with Pakistan’s ISPs.”
PTA said the recent development had no effect on increasing the cost of internet services, and had neither slowed internet speeds nor had implications for citizens’ privacy, as it had been” misrepresented in some media”.
“Furthermore, this will have no effect on current agreements with Content Delivery Networks (CDNs). In view of the position stated above, all speculation related to the process should be allayed,” the statement read.
PTA at odds with ISPs over domain policy
Earlier this month, it was reported that serious differences had emerged between the telecoms regulator and ISPs, with the former keen to implement central DNS while the latter feared the move would slow the speed of internet. ‘Internet and does not cost much.
All ISPs in the country, including Nayatel, PTCL, SCO, Jazz, Zong, TWA, Wateen, Multinet, Nexlinx, Cybernet and KK Networks, participated in a meeting convened by PTA to discuss implementation steps for the centralized DNS blocking.
The PTA asked them to provide DNS server IP addresses, which will be whitelisted on the web filtering gateways of the cable systems providing internet in Pakistan. Other IP addresses will be blacklisted to allow the regulator to block all DNS traffic from the country.
Industry sources said carriers are concerned that such type of DNS blocking could have a huge impact on internet services.
The PTA said it wanted to conduct an impact assessment of such a block with three of the carriers – Nexlinx, Multinet and KK Networks. Other operators were invited to share their comments on DNS blocking at the next meeting.
ISPs were of the opinion that more than 65% of internet traffic in Pakistan is on five CDNs – Google, Facebook, Netflix, Akamai and YouTube – and that they should be included there as well.
ISPs have also said that if Pakistan-based DNS is implemented, it will make hosting these five CDNs very expensive and even slow down the internet speed. They also pointed out that Internet customers using cloud DNS services would not be able to use these services, as many of them operated outside the country.
The PTA said the decision was made to control the uploading of harmful websites which will be blocked, after due process, as these fall under the category of illegal content under the Peca and other relevant laws of the country.