Government warned move could damage fast-growing e-commerce sector, besides also posing serious connection issues
THAI online businesses, Internet service providers and netizens have joined forces to oppose the government’s single Internet gateway plan.
Pawoot Pongvitayapanu, president of the Thai E-Commerce Association and the founder of Rakuten TARAD.com, said such an idea ran counter to the nature of the Internet and would damage the fast-growing e-commerce sector due to connection bottlenecks.
Pawoot said customers outside Thailand would face slower Internet speed when they access e-commerce websites, thus affecting sales revenues in the e-commerce sector.
At present, Thailand’s Internet is accessible from multiple gateways.
“We’re talking with other Internet-related associations about writing a joint letter to the government to oppose this idea and it is not true that the proposed single gateway would help service providers reduce cost,” said Pawoot.
Government Spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said all feedback was welcomed regarding the plan, which was still at the feasibility-study stage.
He said the government’s policy was to promote the digital economy and e-commerce, but it also needed to balance national security with the people’s right to information and Internet freedom.
A campaign called “Go against Thai govt to use a Single Internet Gateway” on Change.org was launched after the plan was unveiled.
As of yesterday, more than 70,000 people supported the campaign.
The reaction of most people to the proposal, including those expressed on web-board Pantip.com and on social media, has been negative.
Pawoot said the proposed Internet firewall would lead to easier and more effective filtering of content, but a single gateway was risky since the Internet could be down more often, causing enormous economic damage.
Morragot Kulatumyotin, managing director of Internet Thailand Public Company, said the government would not find it easy to implement the plan because the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission’s licences allowed the private sector to operate many gateways.
“As an Internet service provider, we have not been informed of this plan or asked for an opinion,” said Morragot, adding that there must be seamless and continuous Internet access.
INET, for example, has four links to international Internet gateways.
“Stability of connection is very important, so a single gateway is not practical in the digital age. If the government is worried about national security issues, it would be better to enforce the [computer crime] law,” said Morragot.
However, Morragot said the government may consider playing the role of coordinator to bargain with international companies to get a better price for bandwidths used by Thai Internet service providers and Internet end-users.
Poomjit Sirawongprasert, president of the Thai Hosting Service Providers Club, said that Internet hosting providers were concerned about slower Internet speed if the single gateway were used.
Poomjit said a slower Internet would hurt online businesses and other business such as online gaming, movie and video streaming companies, voiceover IP companies, and even the banking sector – ATMs and electronic money transfers.
Netizens would also be impacted negatively during crises when a lot of people use the Internet at the same time, Poomjit said.
“If the government uses the single gateway, the bandwidth must be very large and that needs a huge investment,” said Poomjit, adding that people are also worried the government would be able to monitor their content more easily.
Prinya Hom-anek, president and chief executive officer of the ACIS Professional Centre, said the single gateway plan made sense if there were multiple links and trustworthiness between the public and the private sector.
Prinya said the single gateway system should not be managed by the ICT Ministry, but an independent body similar to the Bank of Thailand and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand.
Paiboon Amonpinyokeat, an Internet legal expert and the founder of law firm P&P Company, said the plan was outdated and would restrict people’s right to knowledge and Internet freedom.
Paiboon said the government might be worried about the growing popularity of peer-to-peer communication platforms like LINE and WhatsApp as Internet and mobile operators did not keep log files of this traffic because it would be a huge cost.
Paiboon said the government should enforce the law and require operators to keep log files of traffic and possibly provide a subsidy to operators so it could open log files to access messages.