This year’s Consumer Conference saw the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) adjust the broadband regulations in favour of the average broadband user. By raising the minimum internet speed to 4MBps up from 256KBps, the regulator has essentially made it mandatory for broadband providers to give users access to the new minimum speed. Beyond this, PTA also went a step further and made it mandatory for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to provide at least 80 percent of the promised speed at all times.

256KBps was not really sufficient as a minimum speed to be provided through broadband internet for today’s data-heavy requirements on most modern websites and internet use cases, so this is a step in the right direction. The decision to ensure ISPs provide a minimum of 80 percent of the promised speed is also important, given that this gives the additional responsibility of maintaining the resilience of the network at all times. Even part-government PTCL struggles with this throughout the country. However, PTA’s change in rules does not mean that ISPs can upgrade their infrastructure instantly; time will be required for consumers to be able to get the speeds they are now guaranteed through broadband by PTA.

This is easier said than done in all regions except for major cities, where network providers have already laid down key infrastructure and continue to build upon it. In far-flung regions in the north and in Balochistan, internet speeds are notoriously unreliable and networks suffer frequent outages. Even without major catastrophes such as the ongoing floods, ISPs need to be doing a lot more to provide consumers with quality internet.

The importance of the internet in today’s digital world makes it comparable to most public goods, although control of the actual infrastructure is mostly divided between the public and private sectors. This is why regulators such as PTA and the government must keep pushing ISPs and the industry at large to prioritise areas with limited access and provide more equitable services to all regions of the country.