Mobile internet speeds in Jammu & Kashmir will continue to be restricted to 2G, even as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds in the territory, and a petition asking for 4G restoration remains pending in the Supreme Court. The J&K administration, which falls directly under the Central government, said there is no other alternative but to continue with speed restrictions, and ordered that 2G mobile speeds continue for at least two weeks i.e. until May 11.
The order, made by principal secretary Shaleen Kabra, cites a “spurt in terrorist violence”, misuse of internet by “anti-national elements”. Even though mobile internet is restricted to 2G speeds, the J&K administration has suspended all wireless data services on at least 11 different days across five districts.
- April 27: Suspended in Kulgam district from 9:30 pm to 6 pm [Editor: the next day], following an encounter in Guddar area in Kulgam
- April 25: Suspended in Kulgam district and police district of Awantipora from 4:45 am to 6 pm. This was following an encounter in Goripora in Awantipora.
- April 22: Suspended in Anantnag district from 8 am to 6 pm, following the same encounter in Shopian
- April 21-22: 2G suspended in Shopian district from 11:15 pm on April 21 until 6 pm the next day. This was following an encounter in Melhora village in the district.
- April 18: 2G internet suspended in Shopian district from 6:45 am to 5:30 pm
- April 11: Suspended in Kulgham district from 2:30 am to 5:30 pm
- April 10: Suspended in Kupwara district from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm
- April 7-8: Suspended in Sopore district from 11:30 am until 5 pm of April 8
- April 4 & 5: Suspended in Kulgam district from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm on April 4; and from 10 am to 5 pm the next day
2G internet was allowed in J&K after a 7-month communications blackout by the Indian government, following the abrogation of Article 370 in August last year. Mobile internet services were restored in the union territory at 2G speeds last month. Even this came after multiple whitelists allowing a limited number of websites — up to 1,600 per the last whitelist — were issued, upon the Supreme Court’s direction. Prepaid connections are allowed, but will require the kind of KYC verification usually done for postpaid connections.
The petition seeking 4G restoration: Foundation for Media Professionals has sought restoration of 4G speeds, citing difficulties in access to online classes and accurate information, in delivery of healthcare in the territory, and the inability to “work from home” due to slow internet speeds, in the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and lockdown. Doctors are struggling to download latest studies, protocols, manuals and advisories on treatment and management of COVID-19. Telemedicine and online education are impossible to carry out on 2G speeds, and the public’s access to information is impeded.
The Foundation for Media Professionals filed an application bringing on record individual narratives from doctors, teachers, students etc. and, a comparative technical analysis of functioning of websites at 2G speed and 4G speed.