KARACHI: The cable operators in Pakistan’s financial capital on Monday blasted the metropolis’ sole power supplier for its incompetence and shut down Internet and TV services as part of their two-hour symbolic strike.
As people expressed outrage over blocked access to the online world, a private Internet service provider intimated its customers through e-mail of the K-Electric’s “highly irresponsible and disruptive step” of deliberately cutting down the cables, leading to the “destruction of operators’ infrastructure”.
Multiple people took to Twitter to ask where they could file complaints about Internet connectivity issues, while others were horrified at two private companies engaging in a protest war despite billing “consumers on a monthly basis regardless of quality or availability of internet or tv”.
Earlier in the day, Cable Operators Association (COA) Chairperson Khalid Arain addressed a press conference in Karachi, announcing a two-hour symbolic strike in the metropolis and lambasting the K-Electric for its incompetence and deliberate sabotaging of cable operators’ wires across the city.
According to Arain, the strike was to be observed for two hours — from 7-9pm — today, wherein the Internet and cable TV services were shut down. He warned that if the cable operators’ demands were not met, “we will hold a two-hour symbolic strike daily and shut down the service across entire Pakistan”.
“We are being forced to take extreme steps due to K-Electric’s cruel measures,” the COA chief said, adding that the symbolic strike would continue on Tuesday if negotiations did not take place by then.
The cable operators’ representative said the K-Electric proceeded to cut their wires on its whims wherever it wanted, was using the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s (KMC) poles, and blatantly ignored the orders of the city’s commissioner.
“The K-Electric holds talks with us one moment, and the next, it cuts down our cables. The K-Electric is cutting our wires even today,” Arain lamented.
“If there was no issue of current [in the wires], then why did the K-Electric carry out an earthing process? Earthing was only done because of the K-Electric’s incompetence,” he added.
The cable operators’ representative said there was no current in the cable TV wires and that the power-supplying company should stop leveling accusations on them.
“The K-Electric sold off the copper wires [for their own benefit] and installed silver wires instead. The K-Electric not stopping its bullying tactics,” he added.
Arain further appealed to top officials of Karachi, as well as of the country, to help resolve the challenges the cable operators were facing. He requested Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar to give permission for a common corridor for underground cable.
He noted that Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Ali Shalwani had listened to the stances of both the cable operators and the K-Electric, saying Shalwani “has ordered all DCs [district commissioners] to provide common corridor to the cable operators”.
“We have also requested Sindh Governor [Imran Ismail] to save us from this crisis. Sindh Governor also said there is no current in cable TV wires,” Arain mentioned.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan, Power Minister Omar Ayub Khan, and the NEPRA [National Electric Power Regulatory Authority] should intervene in this matter.
“I also request PEMRA [Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority] chairperson to speak to the top officials, resolve these issues, and provide protection to the cable operators,” he added.
The COA official said a majority of people were staying at homes due to the coronavirus pandemic and cable TV was the only source of information and entertainment for them.
“The K-Electric told us five places where the wires had to be laid underground,” he explained, noting that although the cable operators had started work in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), it would “take us three to four years to complete it”.
Separately, the K-Electric maintained its stance, saying on Twitter it was “conducting a drive against illegally placed and unsafe cable TV & internet wires” and terming the wires “a major safety hazard”.
“They cause fires, faults, injuries and deaths. Please join us in saying NO MORE UNSAFE CABLE TV/INTERNET,” the power supplier wrote on Twitter, using the hashtags “#CableMafia,” “#Mafia,” “#Blackmail,” and “#Threats”.
On the other hand, StormFiber explained to its customers in an email that the Internet services it provides were halted due to wires downed by the K-Electric.
“This activity carried out without any prior intimation is posing a serious challenge for all broadband and cable tv providers across the city in delivering quality connectivity to customers,” it wrote.
“This destruction of operators’ infrastructure has also been carried out despite service providers having had started the migration of fiber cables underground in agreement with DHA and KMC as well as aerial bunching of cables on standards approved by the utility company itself.
“Fiber cables, which conduct no electrical current are being wrongly blamed for causing electrocution, which is farthest from the truth. Furthermore, StormFiber and Cybernet have over the past decade of operating in Karachi, already buried approximately 90% of its fiber network,” it added.
The company noted that it has been a signatory “to the DHA and Karachi Telecom Common Corridor projects to migrate the remaining 10% of our network underground” and was working as rapidly as possible.