Uganda orders telecoms to block VPNs

Uganda orders telecoms to block VPNs
Eazzy Banking

Uganda Communications Commission Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabazi, says telecommunication companies will block Virtual Private Network applications commonly known as VPN, that are aiding Ugandans to evade social media tax.

The Shs200 daily levy for Over the Top internet services like WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook among other social media services took effect yesterday, at the start of the new Financial Year 2018/2019.

The tax has caused uproar from Ugandans, and while some have grudgingly paid it, others are determined to evade the tax by using VPN applications to access social media applications.

UCC Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabazi, says telecom companies promised to block VPNs and this process has already began.

He however acknowledges that there are many VPNs, admitting that not all of them can be blocked.

He further argues that VPN consumes more data, than the Shs200 social media tax.

Every Uganda who wish to visit any social media platform must pay a sum of Shs200 daily, Shs1400 weekly or Shs6,000 monthly as excise duty.

But several Ugandans who have not been able to pay the daily Shs200 have found VPN as the ultimate solution to bypass paying the daily excise duty charge on Over-The-Top (OTT) services.

A number of Whatsapp groups were flooded with links of what was thought to be better and reliable VPN apps, for people to download and access social media again free of tax.

VPN is a technology that extends a private network across a public network, and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. Applications running across a VPN may therefore benefit from the functionality, security, and management of the private network.

VPN was first popularized by former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi in 2016 when he was campaigning as a presidential candidate ahead of Uganda’s 2016 elections.

At the time, President Museveni who was also campaigning for a fifth elective term had shut down social media claiming that the ban was a “security measure to avert lies … intended to incite violence and illegal declaration of election results.”

Mr Mbabazi then referred his followers to the Tunnelbear VPN in order to circumvent censorship and to access the internet anonymously.

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