Over a Barrel: Indonesia Threatens to Cut BlackBerry Service

by Jordan Richardson on December 12, 2011

It was just a little under a year ago that I reported on Research In Motion’s inclination to help the Indonesian government filter porn. The company’s series of concessions has been well-documented, but it seems that their activity in the Southeast Asian archipelago still isn’t enough to appease the Indonesian Telecommunication Regulatory Body.

The regulator has threatened to shut down RIM’s BlackBerry services in Indonesia because the Waterloo company has “reneged” on its promise to set up a regional data centre.

Other requests include the setting up of an aggregator that will “reduce costs for local service providers,” assistance with accessing encrypted data on customer’s phones, “customer care centres,” and, of course, the aforementioned blockade of pornography.

“RIM is supposed to have a licence to provide Internet services, and the government will only grant them one when they have fulfilled all four requests. If they don’t, we’ll have to cut their data services,” said Heru Sutadi, commissioner of the regulator.

There appears to be some sort of miscommunication, to say the least, as RIM says that it has fulfilled “all the requests.” It has set up a router in Singapore, for one, and says that she should suffice to satisfy the Indonesian government’s demand for an aggregator.

And that data centre? “We have never been formally asked to build a centre in Indonesia,” RIM’s East Asia managing director Gregory Wade said.

As far as helping the Indonesian government crack encryption to access customer data on phones, RIM has allegedly been collaborating with local law enforcement agencies. According to Sutadi, however, RIM hasn’t told them which local law enforcement agencies they’re collaborating with.

For RIM, Indonesia is big business. The country features the world’s 18th largest economy by nominal gross domestic product and has become the world’s biggest consumer, outside of North America, of BlackBerry products. Losing business in Indonesia would be a major blow, but ceding too much and aiding the government in the act of spying on customers can’t be a comfortable ethical posture.

The trouble in Indonesia is not limited to government quarrelling. RIM faced fire after a BlackBerry promotion in Jakarta led to enormous line-ups and a subsequent stampede that left a number of people injured. The company’s president-director and consultant in the region face criminal charges.

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Written by: Jordan Richardson. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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