Two weeks after the Jammu and Kashmir administration issued orders to restore broadband connectivity in the Valley, a majority of fixed line broadband services are yet to be restored as Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has been unable to install the firewall that will block social media and all other websites barring the 329 sites whitelisted by the government.
The J&K’s Home Department on January 24 had ordered the restoration of broadband and 2G mobile services in the Valley with some restrictions. While 2G mobile internet services were restored a day after the order, broadband services are yet to be restored.
At present, around 90 per cent of the total broadband connections in the Valley are from BSNL.
Sources told The Indian Express that private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have resumed broadband Internet connectivity, with only the whitelisted sites accessible. The ISPs have also taken an undertaking from customers.
“We had received instructions from the government to restore the broadband Internet in Valley. But there are some conditions (for the restoration), and under those conditions, we are seeking technical assistance for setting up firewalls which is in process and will be commissioned as well,” BSNL Srinagar public relations officer Masood Bala said.
A senior BSNL officer said several teams based in Chandigarh, Noida, Bengaluru and in Jammu and Kashmir have been working to install firewalls. “Our broadband equipment (in Srinagar) is very old and it is very difficult to restore broadband with access to only whitelisted sites and block social media. We have not been successful so far in doing so…” the officer said.
However, another official said BSNL is close to setting up the firewall. “We are hopeful that we will restore Internet very soon since we have procured the hardware for setting up the firewall. Once the firewall is set up, we will restore Internet in the Valley,” the official said.
A senior police official based in Srinagar and privy to the matter told The Indian Express that the government had already ordered BSNL to restore broadband services. “It is up to them to restore. We have no role in its restoration,” the officer said.
On January 10, the Supreme Court directed the J&K administration to “review all orders suspending Internet services forthwith” since “an order suspending Internet services indefinitely is impermissible”. It ruled that “freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to practice any profession or carry on any trade, business or occupation over the medium of Internet enjoys Constitutional protection under Article 19 (1) (a) and Article 19 (1) (g)”.