The Jammu & Kashmir administration has ordered limiting mobile internet to 2G speed, even as the number of COVID-19 cases in the territory touched 300. This comes even as the Supreme Court issued notice last week to the administration in a petition to restore 4G speeds in the UT given the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, the administration claims that the 2G restrictions have not posed any hindrance to COVID-19 control measures. It even claims that restricting speeds has reduced social media misuse, circulation of provocative content, fake news, rumours, coordination of terror activities, and “other such acts that rely upon high speed mobile connectivity”. 2G speeds will continue until April 27, just a few days before the end of the current phase of the lockdown end on May 3.

The administration said that social media is still being used for circulating photos of terrorists and for “mobilising crowds”, and the security situation remains unstable. The order also cites the gathering of 400–500 locals for the funeral of a militant killed in an encounter in Sopore district in North Kashmir last week. People had gathered outside the house of JeM militant Sajad Nawab Dar, even with social distancing instructions in place. Sopore police registered an FIR against unknown people for violating lockdown and social distancing protocols. Both broadband and 2G internet services were suspended in Sopore for the two days — April 7 & 8 — after the encounter began in the Gulabad Arampora area in Sopore. The order was in fact, passed by the Kashmir IGP and later approved by the Home Department the next day.

2G mobile internet suspended

Mobile internet was also suspended in Kulgam district on April 4 & 5, following an encounter between in Kulgam’s Hardmandguri Khur Batpora area. In its previous order for continuing mobile internet at 2G speeds, the J&K administration had said limiting speeds did not impact COVID-19 control measures or online education. The Kashmir Private School Association urged the government late last month to restore 4G internet services in the region where schools have not been able to function properly since August 5, earlier due to abrogation of Article 370, and now because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Doctors are unable to download treatment protocols or treat patients via telemedicine, due to slow internet speeds, the Foundation for Media Professionals said in its petition asking for 4G restoration. The petition also pointed out that the Jammu & Kashmir residents are unable to access “potentially life-saving information” stating that the denial of access to critical information in times of a “notified disaster” seriously impacts the right to public health.

It’s worth noting that the Central government has declared telemedicine, e-commerce, IT services, and telecom as essential services. It has also said that educational institutes are are expected to “maintain the academic schedule” via online teaching.