Lingering 4G Ban

JAMMU and Kashmir administration has extended the ban on 4G mobile data services across the union territory till February 6. The government reasoning remains the same: the order has cited threat perception on the security front in the union territory to not restore high-speed internet services on the mobile phones. This means, the internet speed will continue to be restricted to 2G in all districts, except Ganderbal and Udhampur where the 4G services were reinstated in August 2020. The service was snapped on August 5, 2019 when  Article 370 was revoked.
Meanwhile, the Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir has filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking restoration of high speed mobile Internet. The Association has pleaded that the children of J&K  have already lost two academic years as it was “impossible to conduct online classes using video-conferencing tools such as Zoom or WebEx at 2G mobile Internet speed”. The Association has also highlighted the prolonged closures of schools after August 5, 2019 and then on account of COVID-19 pandemic.
But the government remains unmoved. It is in no mood to restore the high speed mobile internet anytime soon. Last year, speaking in parliament, the minister of state for home GK Reddy said that the high-speed internet was already available in Kashmir on fixed line. Reddy further said that, “E-learning apps and education and e-learning websites of the government are accessible over 2G internet for downloading e-books and other study material”.  Similarly for the minister “the 2G mobile internet speed is not an impediment in Covid control measures including dissemination of information to general public as well as health workers”.
But ask the teachers and pupils in J&K,  they would hardly agree with the union government on this. Truth is, it is certainly not feasible to study online with 2G speed. For one, it is challenging to attend the video classes which are a critical component of online education. Such classes enable a direct interaction of the students with their teachers and allows them to ask questions and seek clarifications. On 2G speed, the schools can send only a textual study material to students through mail. And that is as good as studying text books at home.
It is thus important that the government restores the high speed mobile internet. It is the best solution to lack of physical schooling. The government needs to rethink the internet ban in its entirety. Eighteen months ban on the service and ever since a severely curbed mobile internet is the longest denial of what the apex court has termed as a fundamental right.

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