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Don Sambandaraksa

Thai local DC push has sinister implications

Net Neutrality. Some countries strive for it, some countries work to protect it. Thailand, however, wants nothing of it, preferring cheap Facebook and Google goodness instead.

Last Friday, the Thai ISP association and True Internet general manager Vasu Khunvasi, petitioned the telecom regulator to help negotiate with Facebook and Google for a local CDN, arguing that the industry is paying over $125 million (4 billion Baht) a year in bandwidth fees.

The Bangkok Post quoted Vasu as saying that his company pays $37 million (1.2 billion baht) a year for international bandwidth, almost half of all its costs.

The argument was that it would be a win-win situation, with local data centers resulting in faster and cheaper service. Nobody mentioned the other big plus in that Thailand’s security services can protect its people from the dangers of the uncensored internet more easily too.

Given that the Good People (TM) who run the country have in the past ordered Facebook shut out to prove they can do it, one wonders how far they are willing to go for the sake of control.

Of course, given Mountain View’s track record with the great firewall of China, it is unlikely they will capitulate.

What strikes me as odd is the deafening silence of opposition to such measures. The man in the street does not mind as he reckons he has nothing to hide anyway.

Even the telecom regulator itself is reported to be developing a LINE IM based system for reporting grievances, never mind LINE’s reckless attitude to security or the fact that the Technology Crime Suppression Division has gone on the record saying that LINE is helping them with logs of suspects’ conversations (without a court order). Thai people like cute stickers.

Or to put it another way, cute teddy bears win over Snowden’s NSA revelations.

Many years ago I asked then Science and Technology Minister Kalaya Sophonpanich why this was so; why was it that Thais did not care about net neutrality, data liberation or have a fear of Big Brother in general.

Her answer was simple. Thailand has been fortunate and we have not had personal data abused by our state, unlike many countries that have been through Nazi occupation where whether people live or die depends on what it says next to their name on a list.

The question today is, is Thailand really so desperate as to relinquish freedoms and equality in the name of efficiency? And no, I am not just talking about the CDN proposal.