MB Subba 

Bhutan Telecom (BT) and TashiCell have submitted proposals for additional data for educational purposes to the Ministry of Education (MoE) in the wake of disturbances due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The need to reduce data charges increased after Google classrooms became a reality due to the closure of schools.

The two companies have proposed additional data for students. But the companies have proposed restrictions on the content, which means the reduction in data charges will apply only for certain services like Google classrooms.

The Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) has already decided to provide free data for those who are in quarantine.

BT CEO Karma Jurme said: “We are expecting Internet traffic congestion which is why we are saying that the students’ data quota should for educational purposes.”

But despite the expected traffic congestion, the CEO said that there was no need for the company to increase its carrying capacity with restrictions in the system. He said that BT was in discussion with its partners on the plan.

There are already traffic congestions where the density of users is high.

Asked on who will bear the cost of providing additional data, Karma Jurme said, “If we are coming up with a package for students, we cannot really say that there are financial implications.”

The proposed data quota, he said, was being treated as the company’s support for students in this difficult time. “Of course, if you provide more goods at the same price, financial implications will be there, but we are not looking at it that way,” he added.

TashiCell says it has to increase the capacity to avoid traffic congestion.

Commercial general manager of TashiCell, Namgyal Wangchuk, said that the network traffic would increase when thousands of students come online.

There were a total of 166,786 students in 2019, according to the statistical yearbook 2019.

According to the general manager, the education ministry would provide the lists of students to the companies based on which the service would be provided. “We are working with the government,” he said.

Namgyal Wangchuk said that the government was expected to provide subsidies to the company. According to him, reduction in data charges would have financial implications on the company as it needed to upgrade the capacity immediately to avoid the network congestion.

In a press release, the DHI expressed thanks to His Majesty for the guidance and fighting the virus on the frontline. “We also applaud our frontline health workers, led by Hon’ble Prime Minister and Health Minister, for their extra efforts to stem the spread of the virus.”

The press release stated DHI and Companies had decided that Bhutan Power Corporate (BPC) and BT would provide free electricity and free data services to all private quarantine centres. The service is effective for the duration the facilities are used as quarantine centres.

Earlier, the prime minister had requested the companies to consider waiver of the electricity bills for hotels that are being used as quarantine centres and to consider reduction in data charges