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Manipur govt orders partial lifting of internet ban on broadband connections, mobile data services remain suspended

The order, issued by the state Home Department on July 25, refers to ISPs such as Internet Lease Line (ILL) and Fibre to the home (FTTH).

The Manipur government has decided to partially lift internet ban in the case of broadband services like Internet Lease Line (ILL) and Fibre to the home (FTTH) connections, according to an order issued by the State Home Department on July 25, 2023. However, mobile data services and internet access through virtual private networks or VPNs continue to remain suspended under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017.

The order, reviewed by MediaNama, states that the internet ban through broadband services will be lifted upon fulfilment of the following conditions:

  1. Internet connection will be provided only through static IP and the subscriber is prohibited from accepting any connections other than those allowed by the government. Service providers will be held responsible in case of non-compliance.
  2. WiFi and hotspots are not allowed from any of the routers and systems using the connection. Media Access Control Address (MAC) binding at the system level or router shall be ensured with the concerned Telecom Service Provider.
  3. The concerned subscriber will have to ensure social media websites and VPNs are blocked at the local level. They will also have to ensure that existing VPN software from the system are removed and installation of new software/VPN is strictly prohibited.
  4. Authorities have to engage in physical monitoring of the situation to check that the terms and conditions are followed.
  5. The subscriber will have to ensure that login ID and password for the respective system is changed on a daily basis and will have to stay up-to-date with any changes in the concerned rules.
  6. The subscriber will be liable to be punished in case of violation of these conditions and will also be held responsible if any leakage/activities perpetrated by secondary user of the internet through WiFi or hotspot without the approval of the Home Department.
  7. The internet service provider will have to obtain undertaking for the abovementioned rules before providing internet connection to a subscriber.

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Regarding continued suspension of mobile data services, the government has stated that “there are still apprehensions that the spread of disinformation and false rumours” through social media platforms, and that having an effective regulatory mechanism for mobile data services is “not technically feasible”.

Why it matters: It’s been over 75 days that Manipur residents have been living under a complete internet shutdown, which has greatly impacted their everyday lives and livelihoods. While citizens petitioned at the Supreme Court that the State government’s move to cut off internet access for a prolonged period infringed upon their fundamental rights and proved to be a disproportionate move, the Courts have refrained from engaging in the proportionality argument.

As experts like Apar Gupta have pointed out, it is important to note that most of the residents from the aggrieved communities, like the Kuki-Zomi members, live in the hills and rely on mobile connections for communications. How then will a partial lifting of the ban help those who are worst affected? In a conflict-ridden zone, it is imperative that the government lift the internet ban in its entirety to enable citizens to access adequate information on developments and help to secure themselves.

What had the Manipur HC directed?

The Manipur High Court (HC) on July 7 had directed the Home Department to lift the ban on providing internet services through Internet Lease Line (ILL)—a dedicated connection provided by an internet service provider with a fixed bandwidth—across the state on complying with safeguards laid out by the Expert Committee. The HC has also ordered the Home Department to provide internet service through Fibre to the home (FTTH) connections only on case-to-case basis and in compliance with the safeguards recommended by the Expert Committee.

These safeguards included providing internet only through a dedicated lease line or FTTH line with a static IP, banning WiFi/hotspots from any routers or systems, blocking social media websites and VPNs at local level, prohibiting installation of new software by any user, and enforcing physical monitoring by concerned authorities among others.

The Committee also suggested that internet service providers can provide internet to only a limited number of “specially identified/ whitelisted mobile numbers if such mobile numbers are identified and furnished by the Home Department.” However, the government has said that such an attempt is not technically feasible.

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Written By

Curious about the intersection of technology with education, caste and welfare rights. For story tips, please feel free to reach out at sarasvati@medianama.com

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