After lifting restriction on the access of social media the J&K government Thursday restored the broadband services in Kashmir after seven months.According to wire service—Kashmir News Observer (KNO)—internet was suspended in Jammu and Kashmir as part of Centre’s communication blockade imposed on Kashmir a day before the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019.The government had also suspended telephone services both landline and mobile for weeks after the revocation of Article 370. The suspension of fixed lines numbering around 45000 in Jammu and Kashmir and over 60 lakh mobiles had literally cut Jammu and Kashmir from outside world. Fixed lines, mobiles and broadband were restored in Jammu region a few weeks after the removal of the Article 370.Public Relations Officer (PRO) BSNL, Masood Bala told—KNO that the broadband internet service has been restored across the Valley with authorities deciding not to charge consumers for the suspended period. “The charges for the suspension period to the consumers have been waived off and the services have been restored,” he said.The PRO BSNL further informed that its customers will enjoy the services with speed. He also said that the BSNL has appointed channel partners covering all the districts for provisioning of broadband solutions on FTTH as well as Radio and all these services are operational from today.In Kashmir the government however refused to restore the facilities citing security concerns. Amid outcry by people and criticism by national and international media and governments the authorities restored landlines in Kashmir, and 2 G mobile internet but allowed access to only a few hundred ‘whitelisted’ sites only after the Supreme Court ruled that access to the internet was part of the freedom of speech.
However, the restoration of 2G mobile internet proved a sham due to extremely poor connectivity. That led to use of VPNs by most mobile users in Kashmir. The police then cautioned mobile users not to misuse the VPNs to spread propaganda.The BSNL and private services providers then installed firewalls to fail the VPNs. The BSNL hired a US IT Company to installed firewalls to deny access to sites that didn’t fall under whitelisted sites. The authorities also issued a statement saying it was ready to restore the broadband connection of any person who was ready to sign a bond and comply with the conditions listed in the bond. The government also restored broadband connectivity to hospitals across Kashmir. Many businessmen, hoteliers, private schools were provided internet connections after they agreed not to the government conditions.The suspension of internet not only choked Kashmir’s economy but also caused a humanitarian crisis as people couldn’t connect with each other and their loved ones outside the state with ease.The blockade of the internet also created a health crisis as WhatsApp groups like ‘Save Heart’ formed by doctors in Kashmir to provide remote assistance to heart patient and medical emergencies was grounded.The disruption of the internet also caused immense problems to students who wanted to register online for professional courses outside Kashmir. Many students who had to appear in nationwide NEET exams had to travel to Jammu and Delhi to use the internet.Though the government has set up internet facility in government departments but huge rush and poor connectivity forced many students to travel outside Kashmir. The blocking of the internet also caused immense loss to tourism and business. Scores of small businesses and start-ups also suffered for lack of the internet. The suspension of the internet hugely criticized by the US and EU repeatedly. The restoration of the broadband and lifting of curbs on access to social media have come days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cancelled visit to EU—(KNO)