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National Internet Gateway gets PM stamp of approval

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People surf the internet at a café near Phnom Penh’s Wat Phnom. Hong Menea

National Internet Gateway gets PM stamp of approval

Cambodia has approved the establishment of a “national internet gateway” (NIG) through which all of the Kingdom’s online traffic will be routed.

The gateway will facilitate and manage web traffic and ensure effective and efficient revenue mobilisation, social order and the proper management of culture and civility, according to a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen dated February 16.

Comprising 11 chapters and 20 articles, the sub-decree said the NIG will incorporate and manage the Domestic Internet Exchange (DIX) and the International Internet Gateway (IIG).

The DIX is the national interconnection point for internet service providers (ISPs) in the Kingdom, while the IIG carries internet protocol (IP) data to other countries.

The sub-decree said: “The NIG’s DIX and IIG will be installed in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town, Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town and at other designated locations based on the actual demand and as approved by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.”

The statute invited parties interested in operating the NIG to apply for a licence from the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC).

It said the appointed operator would have to “manage and facilitate connections and the use of infrastructure, network and internet services at all instances of the NIG, as well as terrestrial cross-border network infrastructure.

“It will have to install and configure the routers, switches and other network equipment to ensure the quality and security of network connections or peering facilities for NIG and operators of [other] international gateways.

“[It must also] cooperate with the [ministry] and TRC, as well as [other] relevant authorities and take immediate action to block or disconnect any network connection that affects national revenue, security, social order, et cetera,” it added.

Sok Channda, president and CEO of Angkor Data Communication Group Co Ltd (MekongNet), noted that the NIG would deal somewhat of a blow to her business, though admitting that she had not looked at the finer details of the sub-decree.

“I just saw the sub-decree today. Normally, the government wanting to control the gateway is the right approach. But what is important is how the government will bring all ISPs together under a single gateway and a single system. I think we’ll hear more discussions on that,” she said.

She noted that ISPs typically provide multiple gateways to build and maintain a secure network connection for their clients and avoid service interruptions.

“Now, I am waiting to hear an explanation from the ministry on how the NIG will work. For us, if we lose one connection, we’ll still have a few others at our disposal to guarantee our services for clients.”

Pa Chanroeun, president of non-profit think-tank Cambodian Institute for Democracy, posted the sub-decree on his Facebook page and stressed its significance.

“If implemented from a technical standpoint, the sub-decree . . . will become a legal mechanism to maintain and protect the security and safety of internet use in Cambodia. But if it is used politically, it will be a tool to restrict digital rights and democracy,” he warned.

Speaking at a meeting on a draft of the sub-decree in August, telecoms minister Chea Vandeth said the statute was aimed at mobilising national revenue and enhancing internet speed and connectivity in the Kingdom.

Vandeth told operators that a prakas on service quality would be provided and emphasised that the connection fee would be low.

The number of active mobile phone subscriptions across the Kingdom’s six operators was 20,481,051 as of the end of May, inching down 0.08 per cent from the end of May 2019, the latest data from the TRC show.

This figure is the equivalent of 124.09 per cent of the total population.

The number of mobile internet subscriptions across Cambodia’s seven providers also recorded a 2.36 per cent drop to 14,863,435, whereas fixed broadband internet subscriptions across the Kingdom’s 37 providers logged a 33.07 per cent climb to 249,132.

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