Mobile operators got around Rs. 2.45 crores ($350,000) loss in revenue every hour they are needed to suspend Internet services on government orders to monitor demonstrations against a new law on citizenship, a major lobby group said Friday.
Countrywide demonstrations have raged for three weeks since parliament passed legislation that offers a path to citizenship for minorities from neighboring Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh but excludes Muslims. This, together with a proposal for a national citizens ‘ list, is perceived by critics by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as anti-Muslim movements.
The government has deployed thousands of police to quell demonstrations as well as intermittently enforced mobile data shutdowns at a time when people have used social media such as Instagram and TikTok to fight a parallel online battle. Internet freedom critics have protested these suspensions on the Internet.
Mobile Internet was ordered to be shut down in at least 18 districts in Uttar Pradesh on Friday, Reuters was told by a telecommunications industry source. A witness from Reuters received a text message from an Internet service provider stating that home broadband services on the outskirts of capital New Delhi will not be available for 24 hours until the morning of December 28.
According to Swedish telecoms gearmaker Ericsson, Indians download an average of 9.8 gigabytes of data per month on their smartphones, the highest in the world. The nation is the biggest user market for Facebook social media company and its WhatsApp messenger.
Internet shutdowns should not be the first step. Indian Mobile Operators Association (COAI) stated. It includes Jio Infocomm’s mobile carriers Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Industries.
Internet Ban Effects Kashmir
“We’ve highlighted the cost of these shutdowns,” COAI director general Rajan Mathews told Reuters. “According to our computation at the end of 2019, with the increase in online activities we believe the cost (of Internet shutdowns) is close to 24.5 million rupees for an hour of Internet shutdown.”
The revenue losses will compound in India’s telecommunications sector woes. It batters by a price war and saddled with a combined $13 billion (about Rs. 92,855 crores) in outstanding payments following an October Supreme Court ruling. Bharti, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio did not respond to requesting comments from emails.
Thus, the ban follows an unprecedented suspension last week of Internet. Also, text messaging services stop in parts of Delhi. Further, it expanded a clampdown of communications in residential areas from the disputed Kashmir to the northeast.
So, according to the digital rights organization Access Now, Internet services in Kashmir have been suspended. Also, that is for more than 140 days since New Delhi reduce its status. Further,it is from a state to a federally administered territory, making it the longest such shutdown in a democracy.