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Govt maintains J&K status quo: No 4G beyond Ganderbal, Udhampur

The Indian government continues to deny 4G internet to most of Jammu & Kashmir. Only two districts — Ganderbal in Kashmir, and Udhampur in Jammu — will continue to have 4G access, while the rest of the union territory, consisting of over a crore people, can only access 2G internet. This was announced by the J&K administration on Tuesday.

4G services were restored in the two districts on a trial basis on August 17, immediately after India’s Independence Day. The restoration was the result of yet another Supreme Court intervention when Foundation for Media Professionals, which has been fighting for internet access in J&K, filed a contempt petition in the apex court. During the case proceedings, the Central government had submitted that 4G internet can be provided to one district each in Jammu and Kashmir after August 15 on a trial basis, provided these districts did not fall on the LoC or share an international border. The Supreme Court had agreed to this and subsequently issued an order.

Postpaid SIM card holders will have internet access, but prepaid SIM cards will have to be verified as per norms for post-paid connections. Broadband connections will have no speed restrictions, but will be available with MAC-binding. Even though law enforcement agencies made “no reports of misuse of high speed internet services” in the two districts, the state-level review committee said that “the situation needed to be monitored closely”. The status quo will continue until September 30.

On August 11, the Centre had also told the Supreme Court that the State Level Committee would assess the impact of the trial at least once every week, and the outcome of this trial will be assessed after two months. According to the Tuesday order, the State Level Review Committee met on August 21, and September 1. However, it did not mention any two-month timeframe for the trial 4G restorations.

Internet was shut down in the region over a year ago on August 4, 2019 when the state’s special status was stripped and it was bifurcated into two union territories. The territory’s 1.25 crore people have since not had unfettered internet access. After a seven-month blackout, the government allowed access to select websites, and eventually restored access to all websites —  but restricted speed to 2G.

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