Employees of China Telecom have denied reports that a ban on virtual private networks (VPNs) is coming this week.
Speaking with state-run newspaper Global Times on Monday evening, staff members of the domestic telecommunications firm denied receiving any notices of an impending ban:
"It's strange because we didn't ever receive such a notice banning access to VPNs," an employee from a China Telecom service hall in Beijing's Hujialou region told Global Times on Monday.
A customer service employee at China Telecom also denied the ban...
"I can firmly confirm with you that no such notice has been received up to now," an unnamed China Telecom customer service employee told the Global Times on Monday.
The denials come in response to a widely-shared post from Network World published last Friday claiming that a new policy supposedly going into effect this week would require China's commercial Internet service providers (ISPs) to block ports commonly used to allow VPN and software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) access.
Citing a letter said to be obtained from a Xiamen division of China Telecom — one of the country's "big three" domestic telecommunications providers — the report claimed that customers (client companies) must register to receive access to ports that commonly carry HTTP/HTTPS traffic by January 10, 2018 or risk getting them closed off entirely, which could disrupt VPN and SD-WAN connections. The alleged notice did not indicate an exact date when the ports would be closed, nor did it address whether individuals using personal VPNs would be impacted.
READ MORE: Are All VPNs To Be Shut Down This Week?
This isn't the first time reports have suggested a VPN crackdown is imminent.
In a July 2017 report that was later denied by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), Bloomberg said that three major Chinese telecom providers (Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom) had been ordered to halt personal VPN use through their networks by February 1, 2018.
Later, the MIIT clarified that new rules issued in January 2017 were specifically targeting 'illegal users' and 'unlicensed' business activity. Among the regulations was one which prevented domestic telecom firms and ISPs from setting up special lines such as VPNs without government approval.
Speculation of an impending ban was further fueled in July when major VPN software was removed from China's Apple App Store. And just a few months prior, Chongqing authorities announced strict rules stipulating that individual users and companies could be fined up to RMB15,000 if they were caught using a VPN. Some believed that similar measures might soon be rolled out across the rest of the country.