7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
Local News

Technology bill rapped

AN action group has started a petition against new Bluetooth and other wireless technology licensing regulations, proposed for Bahrain.

Opponents say they will reduce personal freedom and restrict the technological advancement of the country, while others argue that laws are required to prevent abuse of such systems.

Protesters say the rules would, if applied to the letter, apply to any equipment using a wireless frequency - such as baby monitors, hearing aids, or cordless phones.

Mahmood Al Yousif, who is among a group of Internet bloggers spearheading the petition, believes the regulations go too far.

"If these regulations go through they will require everybody to using any wireless connections to have a licence from the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA)," he told the GDN.

"In order to use the Bluetooth device the onus of the registration is on the user rather than the manufacturer.

"There is no penalty there and if they are going to be levied it will be fines, but the important thing is it will restrict the technological advancement of Bahrain, forcing everybody to register devices they use on a daily basis.

"The worry is that parliamentarians will use this as an excuse to restrict Bluetooth technology, because they do not understand it and they think it is only there to entice hormones (a reference to complaints that Bluetooth is used to transmit pornography and sexual messages).

"If the frequencies are unlicensed throughout the world, why should they be issued in Bahrain?"

The TRA earlier this month announced plans for an online system for frequency licence registration for certain types of frequency application.

It will allow individuals, businesses and operators in Bahrain to obtain licences to use Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) and Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (Wimax), by filling in an online application form, says the TRA.

The system enables companies and individual users to utilise technologies such as WiFi that rely on spectrum usage at their own premises and connect wirelessly to the Internet.

The aim is to enable individuals, businesses and licensed operators to obtain the licenses for these frequencies in a simple way whilst complying with the Telecommunications Law, which states that any person using frequency in Bahrain must have the relevant licence, says the TRA.

No fees are associated with the licence, covering use of WiFi, Wimax and other Wireless LAN (Local Area Network) technologies, in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands in Bahrain.

But most countries worldwide do not require users of this spectrum to even register in order to be able to use it.

The Bahrainis against the regulations have joined forces with the Netherlands-based non-profit foundation Stichting Open Spectrum, to object to the proposed licensing of short-range radio-communication devices.

"Our petition's strategy is to demonstrate the need to change the law, which requires not just licensing of all WiFi and Bluetooth links, but all cordless phones, GSM handsets, wireless sensor nets, baby monitors, wireless hearing aids and Radio Frequency Identification tags, etc," said a statement on a the website

"It goes way beyond what is necessary to prevent interference.

"We also offer suggestions for rule changes that would limit the impact of the law even without amendment."

Thirty-four people had signed the online petition last night.

But MP Abdulla Al Dossari, who proposed a law to regulate the use of Bluetooth in September 2004, which has since been shelved by parliament, said there was a real need for the service to be regulated.

"Every technology we use today must be regulated to ensure it is used correctly and does not harm people," he said.

"However, many people are misusing Bluetooth by sending out pictures of people, resulting in many problems."

He said many families complained that their daughters were being harassed, particularly at shopping malls where pornographic material is sent to them or their pictures are taken and spread to other Bluetooth users.

"People who are against regulating Bluetooth should realise that one of the main principles of freedom is not to harm others," said Mr Al Dossari.

"Other people have their privacy and freedoms that must be protected.

"What had pushed me to propose a law to regulate this service was the many complaints from families who said it did more harm than good."

The TRA was not available for comment yesterday.

It has issued a consultation period for public feedback before it makes a final decision, which ends today.

l Meanwhile, the TRA has extended the deadline for responses to its consultation on the possibility of more mobile licences in Bahrain, from August 3 to August 31.

The TRA said yesterday that it had received requests for more time and hoped the extension would help encourage a wide interest in the possibility of further competition in the sector.

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