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‘Centre should be lone governing authority for issuing net shutdowns’

The current mechanism to issue internet shutdown orders causes “significant inconvenience to local public at large”, said the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) in a letter to the government. Telecom operators Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio are members of the IAMAI, which also counts Big Tech companies like Google, Meta and Apple as its members.

net shutdowns, Internet shutdown, Department of Telecommunications, Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), Business news, Indian express business news, Indian express, Indian express news, Current AffairsHowever, according to civil society estimates, India has imposed the maximum number of internet shutdowns for at least the last four years. According to a report by global digital rights group Access Now, India enforced as many as 106 internet shutdowns last year.

The Centre should be the “governing authority” in issuing internet shutdown orders and state governments should only issue such orders based on guidelines laid out by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), an industry body representing some of the biggest technology and telecom companies in the country has said.

The current mechanism to issue internet shutdown orders causes “significant inconvenience to local public at large”, said the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) in a letter to the government. Telecom operators Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio are members of the IAMAI, which also counts Big Tech companies like Google, Meta and Apple as its members.

Its comments come as part of its submission to the DoT, which is in the process of finalising a new legal framework for governing the telecom sector in India.

“Temporary stopping / shutdown orders in an area / district / state must be only through an SOP approved by DoT, and Telegraph being a Union subject, only the Central government should be the governing authority in this regard,” the letter read. “The current ad-hoc requests and orders to stop internet services in an area causes significant inconvenience to local public at large.”

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Jio and Airtel did not respond to an immediate request for a comment.

Currently, internet shutdown orders are governed under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017. The rules framed by the DoT say temporary suspensions can be “due to public emergency or public safety”, and gives senior bureaucrats from the Home Ministry at the central and state levels the power to order shutdowns.

Since state governments are empowered to issue internet shutdown orders, the Centre does not maintain any data on the number of such orders passed by them. Last month, Minister of State for Communications Devusinh Chauhan told Parliament that the Centre has no centralised data on internet shutdowns since the matter pertains to law and order that falls in the domain of states.

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However, according to civil society estimates, India has imposed the maximum number of internet shutdowns for at least the last four years. According to a report by global digital rights group Access Now, India enforced as many as 106 internet shutdowns last year. In a report released earlier this year, internet firm top10vpn.com had said that internet shutdowns — ordered by central, state and district level authorities in the country — had lasted for 1,157 hours in total, resulting in a loss of $583 million in 2021. These shutdowns impacted 59.1 million people. India was third in terms of total duration of domestic internet shutdowns, behind Myanmar and Nigeria, with blackouts of 12,238 and 5,040 hours, respectively.

First published on: 08-09-2022 at 02:41:49 am
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