The Thai ISP Association (TISPA) has called on the telecoms regulator to encourage global internet players, such as Google and Facebook, to build content delivery networks (CDNs) in Thailand.
The group’s stated goal is to reduce what they say are unnecessarily high internet bandwidth fees charged by international internet gateway providers. The Bangkok Post reported that the country’s ISPs spent about THB14 billion ($125 million) on global internet bandwidth last year.
Vasu Khunvasi, a member of the association and general manager of True Internet, said True pays around THB1.2 billion a year on international peering costs.
Local CDNs would certainly reduce those peering charges for Thai ISPs and would also help speed up delivery and improve the quality of content for users based in Thailand. But what wasn’t mentioned is that local CDNs would also make it easier (legally) for Thai ISPs to enforce requests by the government to help them filter content that is hosting and cached in Thailand.
Vasu complained that True’s international bandwidth usage jumped in July, the month when the two internet giants opted to pull content off local servers operated by Akamai rather than censor content, as requested by the military government.
True’s Vasu told Mobile World Live that Google has said it would like to have a CDN in Thailand one day but hasn’t made a commitment. That’s not surprising given that Google has gone on the record as saying, given that Thailand’s stance on censorship is out of sync with international law, it’s not interested now in hosting its content locally.
The government’s content filtering efforts started shortly after taking over. In May the military announced plans to consolidate the 15 private and state-run internet gateways into one single national gateway, which would give the government more control over access to websites hosted outside Thailand. No time-frame for completing it has been released.
The move to streamline monitoring via internet gateways isn’t the government’s first. Back in 2008 the ICT minister introduced a plan for an internet gateway costing THB500 million to block content considered to be insulting to the monarchy as well other inappropriate content, such as terrorist material and pornography.
TISPA also has asked the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission to review the universal service obligation, which requires ISPs with a type-1 licence to pay 3.75 per cent of revenue (less network investment costs). The USO requirement was changed about three years ago. Previously, ISPs just had to pay a flat fee for a licence, which was only THB25,000-30,000.
Vasu said that the USO fee was a burden for ISPs since the sector is very competitive and has low margins.