The division bench of the High Court of Chhattisgarh has directed the Government of India to look into increasing the minimum broadband speed from 512Kbps to 2Mbps. This was in response to a PIL filed by Dilip Kumar Bhandari, a social worker based out of Bilaspur, which said that the DoT failed to implement its own National Telecom Policy 2012 (NPT–2012) which recommended a minimum “broadband download speed of 2 Mbps by 2015 and higher speeds of at least 100Mbps thereafter.”

The bench, headed by Chief Justice TBN Radhakrishnan and Justice Sharad Kumar Gupta said that while the court can’t pass an order for the increase in broadband speed (“as the Judiciary cannot lay its hands over the policy decisions of the government”), it has asked for the issue to be brought to the notice of the Department of Telecommunications, “so that requisite directions” could be considered for issuance to the Deputy Director General (Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring), for implementation of the contents of NTP, 2012, ” the bench said in an order (pdf) dated 13th July 2017.

Essentially, it has asked the DoT to consider issuing an order to the DDG for increasing the minimum broadband speed to 2 Mbps. This doesn’t mean that broadband speeds will necessarily be increased. (But they should.)

Note that last year, the TRAI had recommended increasing minimum broadband speed to 2Mbps.

Arguments in the PIL

Right now, several private ISPs are providing 100Mbps Internet connections, but a user is usually restricted by Fair Usage Policies (FUP) policies (data caps) that throttle down speeds after a specific usage limit is passed. Historically, ISPs have throttled speeds to 512Kbps for cheaper plans and 2Mbps for costlier plans, since the current minimum download speed for broadband is just 512Kbps. The PIL added that the DoT has “not assigned any reasons for delays in implementing the NTP–2012 and keeping the whole thing closed as an oyster.“

  • Slow speeds violate right to practice any profession, or business: ISP’s Fair Usage Policies which throttle speeds to 512 kbps is “hampering the right to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business i.e. Article 19(1) (g), of the Constitution of India,” according to the PIL.
  • Slow Internet limits the right to information:  The PIL added that Indian citizens have the right to hold a particular opinion, right to sustain and nurture the opinion. However, it is necessary for citizens to have access to free information to cultivate opinions. “Article 21 confers on all persons a right to know which include a right to recover information and it is the slow internet throttled speed which confines the right to know in a limited scope,” the PIL said.
  • Slow Internet limits freedom of speech and expression: Websites, mobile/desktop apps and social media, requires intensive data usage, but with the speed of 512 Kbps loading “every website/ application is a struggle and it is hampering the very basic fundamental right to ‘Speech and Expression'” as per Article 19,(1),(a) of the Constitution of India.
  • India historically has slow speeds: The US has 25Mbps as minimum broadband speeds, Brazil has 1Mbps, Canada has 1.5Mbps and Bangladesh has 1Mbps. According to CDN provider Akamai, India’s average Internet speed was just around 6.5 Mbps in June 2017 quarter, which is 2nd lowest in the Asia-Pacific region and overall 89th in the world. “On a competitive global stage, such a minimum slow speed of 512 Kbps is harming the global integrity of India [since it] is lowest amongst the BRICS Countries,” the PIL pointed out.

Download: Court Order | PIL