In a major development, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has decided to restore 2G mobile internet services across all the 20 districts in the Union Territory effective Saturday.
According to a notification by the home department of Jammu and Kashmir administration, access to the internet with 2G speed on mobile phones will resume from January 25.
However, access shall be limited only to 301 whitelisted sites and social media applications will continue to remain out of bounds for the Valley’s residents, it said.
Data services shall be available on post-paid as well as pre-paid sim cards.
The restoration of the 2G internet facility on mobile phones will continue till January 31 after which it would be reviewed further, said an order issued by Shaleen Kabra, Principal Secretary, J&K government.
This is the biggest breakthrough in internet connectivity in the region that comes nearly six months after communication was snapped on August 5 last year as the Centre announced abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution applicable to the erstwhile state and also bifurcated it into two union territories — Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration had on January 14 allowed partial restoration of broadband internet for institutions in Kashmir Valley.
It had announced that 2G mobile connectivity would be restored in 10 districts of the Jammu region,while broadband facilities will be provided to “all the institutions dealing with essential services” as well as hospitals, banks, and hotels among others.
2G mobile connectivity on post-paid mobiles for accessing 153 whitelisted websites including e-banking was allowed in two out 10 districts of the Kashmir Valley — Bandipur and Kupwara — and all the 10 districts of Jammu region
On January 18, voice calling and SMS services on prepaid mobile connections were restored after more than five months of shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir.
Earlier, on the eve of New Year, the government had announced to restore the SMS services in hospitals and schools in Kashmir.
On December 10 last year, SMS service was enabled to facilitate students, scholarship applicants, traders and others. However, the service providers were allowed to resume machine-based messages while the subscribers were not allowed to send any messages from their mobiles.
The gradual relaxation on internet comes after the Supreme Court asked the government to review the internet ban in Jammu and Kashmir, calling it a part of Freedom of Speech as mentioned in the Constitution.
While delivering the verdict on unprecedented lockdown in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the apex court had on January 10 said that all orders of suspension of telecom services and those related to Section 144 of CrPC must be reviewed by the concerned authority within seven days. It added that all future orders must be reviewed in a timely manner.
The court observed that the use of Internet enjoys constitutional protection as a tool, which is under the ambit of freedom of speech and expression and also enables people to carry on with their respective profession.
It said the suspension of internet indefinitely was “unconstitutional”.
The apex court orders come as a setback for the Centre that has been garnering support for its move in the Valley.