Citing “urgent maintenance works on telecommunications networks,” five major mobile providers in Uzbekistan shut down SMS and internet services for four hours. This, coincidently, for the duration of nationwide testing for university entrance exams. The outage was scheduled for August 2, and occurred between the hours of 9am and 1pm. According to a report from Gazeta.uz (via Google Translate) this was actually part of an attempt to prevent cheating during the tests.
What was affected?
The “maintenance” outage affected five carriers. Services such as text messaging, MMS, WAP, GPRS and EDGE for approximately 19 million mobile subscribers were shut down, according to reports. However, all voice services functioned normally.
Why is This?
According to the report, it seems that authorities in the country feared that students taking their entrance exams would use said features to cheat during their exams. It also says that police actually search students’ phones and materials before they are allowed to enter the university building.
Is this Common?
It’s mentioned that such restrictions are introduced by mobile operators in Uzbekistan every year during the day of testing.
It’s not quite halting internet access, as some countries have been accused of doing in the past, but they are limiting services to all subscribers. As previously stated, that’s roughly 19 million users. Most of those people are not testing, so they are limiting services on everyone in the country in order to prevent cheating. You’d think they’d just ask students to shove their phone in a box or to keep it face down on their desk where those administering the test can clearly see it. Anything but halting services nationwide to keep a few kids from cheating on their test. Then again, Uzbekistan is said to have a tight grip over services such as internet, though it’s largely denied.
It’s amazing when you learn how much some governments control things like internet and television. It’s also alarming how it can just be denied, despite widely reported news. It’s likely to continue, and unfortunately it seems that there is little that can be done about that. Still, it’s frightening that major services for major providers can be shut down over something like testing. Sure, college is important and stuff, but how about the rest of your 19 million mobile users?