The mobile internet services in Jammu and Kashmir will remain at 2G speed amid the COVID-19 lockdown, as the J&K administration has decided to retain the existing restrictions on data connection till April 15, unless modified earlier
In the order issued on Friday, the Home Department of J&K Government stated that speed restrictions have not posed any hindrance to "COVID-19 control measures or to access online educational content".
The order passed by Shaleen Kabra IAS, Principal Secretary to the Government, stated that the recent changes in J&K domicile law has the potential to be exploited by those "inimical to public peace". It also stated that there have been major recovery of arms on one hand and killings of civilians by terrorists on the other, apart from attempts to "encourage terrorism through uploading of provocative material".
It further stated that speed restrictions have checked the "unfettered use of social media for incitement and propagating/coordinating terror activities".
Citing these grounds, the Administration decided to retain the restrictions existing as per the order issued on March 26, invoking powers under Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act and Rule 2 of the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules 2017.
It is pertinent to note that a petition was filed in the Supreme Court on April 2 seeking restoration of 4G mobile services in the area during the period of lockdown.
At 2G mobile internet speeds, the patients, doctors, and the general public of Jammu & Kashmir are unable to access the latest information, guidelines, advisories, and restrictions about COVID19 that are being made available and continuously updated online on a daily basis, stated the plea filed by "Foundation of Media Professionals".
The Petitioner asserted that doctors are not able to access online resources on measures to curb COVID-19 at all, due to the internet speed being too slow to download heavy files. Further it was averred that slow internet speeds rendered "telemedicine" or online video consultation impossible. The petition stated that restoration of full-fledged internet services is also crucial to strictly implement the "work from home" policy being promoted by the government.
The Central government had imposed a complete communications blackout in the erstwhile state of J&K in August 2019, right after abrogation of Article 370. Five months later in January 2020, on the basis of a Supreme Court order , the services were partially restored, only at 2G speed for mobile users. Access was provided only to a selected "white-listed" sites, and social media was completely blocked.
The Supreme Court had observed that indefinite suspension of internet is not permissible and restrictions on internet have to follow the principles of proportionality under Article 19(2).
The blockade on social media was lifted on March 4, but the speed was retained as 2G for mobile data.
Click here to download order