The feature was supposed to be mandatory well before the guideline was drafted, but there was no monitoring of its implementation
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) is set to take a strict stance against internet service providers (ISPs) which will not provide parental control to its subscribers, in light of giving the nod to a guideline it recently published.
The feature was supposed to be mandatory well before the guideline was drafted, but there was no monitoring of its implementation in the country.
As a result, parents will be able to control what their children can see on the internet and what they cannot. It will be effective in blocking harmful websites which contain pornography, gambling, violent and other objectionable content.
It is a sensitive issue, as it is based on children's interests. But due to lack of manpower and budget constraints, the BTRC could not implement the service. A committee will be formed to oversee the implementation, said Shyam Sunder Sikder, BTRC chairman.
"In the past few years, objectionable online content has been on the rise. Yet guardians remain unaware that this can be controlled. We will campaign and ensure its promotion across the country. ISPs not complying with the directive will be taken to task, he also said.
However, he also expressed his limitations in controlling content on popular websites such as Facebook and YouTube. If any major problem arises, the government has to submit requests for removing certain content, and the websites have to agree to take them down, Sikder added.
The implementation of the guideline, styled "Regulatory and Licensing Guidelines for ISPs", will now be free of charge and mandatory as well.
It will be an initiative to realise child online protection, to lay the foundations for a safe and secure cyber world, not only for today's children but also for future generations, the guideline said.
This will also enable parents to determine what can be accessed on the internet, and it can be done either by using a software, or by instructing their respective ISPs to block questionable websites individually, which the ISPs must comply.
The ISPs may advise the internet subscribers which websites may be harmful or misused by children. This way, the parents and guardians can also take preventive measures by using some settings, BTRC officials said.
According to the guideline, parents can also control their child’s internet browsing through settings, search engine settings, operating system settings, set controls directly with their ISPs and/or use security software to make things safer.
"My children watch and learn science projects from YouTube. But sometimes it makes them uncomfortable and embarrassed when some questionable content arises. Parental controls can prevent this," said Shahid Alam, from Rampura.
The guideline read that ISPs will have to provide some parental control services, including the ability to block websites, public chat-rooms and instant messaging services, filter explicit images and videos, keep track of user activity, set time limits for internet usage, and more.
"Although popular in most countries, parental control is relatively new in our country. We have not been able to implement it due to lack of awareness among parents," said Emdadul Hoque, secretary general of the Internet Service Providers of Bangladesh (ISPAB).
Erecting a guideline is not enough. BTRC should be more alert in implementing it. The responsibility also falls on them and mobile operators, as many new users use mobile data to access the internet, he also said.
Although websites can usually be blocked with a router with a broadband connection, most parents do not do so, considering it to be system a hassle or an unwanted expense. But now ISPs will take initiative, said Aminul Hakim, president of ISPAB.
They can do this through hardware themselves. This can be done using high-tech routers. Parents will be given a username and password, through which they can easily decide what they want and what they do not want to see. However, ISPs would have charge a nominal fee to implement it, he also said.
As the internet protocol address of questionable websites, such as pornographic ones, change regularly, the ISPs should keep track and block them whenever sighted, BTRC officials said.
The government has already launched campaign to build a secure internet for all types of users in the country.
More than 20,000 porn and gambling sites in the country have been shut down. Several government agencies are also working to remove video-sharing platforms which contain semi-pornographic content, especially on YouTube and social media.