India Tops World In Internet Shutdowns In 2020, Suffers $2.8 Billion Loss
On January 10, 2020, the Supreme Court in a significant ruling, had declared access to the Internet as a fundamental right under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. The top court took the decision on a batch of pleas filed against Internet shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir and also said that banning the Internet for a long time is a violation of fundamental rights. Though, the reality is the exact opposite.
India is steadily advancing in internet blackout. In 2019, India was placed three in 2019 and saw 4,196 hours of an internet blackout. After the Supreme Court's decision on 10 January, 2G internet was started in Kashmir from 25 January. However, the curbs continued on social media. On March 4, the government lifted the ban but only 2G internet connections were working there. The report states that in 2020, the internet was affected in Jammu and Kashmir for 8,799 hours. This includes 1,655 hours of internet blackout, 7,272 hours of bandwidth throttling, and social media shutdowns. Jammu and Kashmir has suffered a loss of Rs 20,317 crore due to the internet blockade. In addition to Jammu and Kashmir, in Manipur in 2020, internet was shut down for 72 hours causing a loss of Rs 35 crore, 48 hours in Meghalaya, causing a loss of Rs 16 crore and for 8 hours in Arunachal causing loss of Rs 2.6 crore. According to the report, Myanmar was placed second with 8,808 hours of internet shutdown and Chad at third position with 4,608 hours of shutdown. This resulted in a loss of Rs 1,400 crore to Myanmar and Rs 170 crore to Chad, but Belarus is second only to India in terms of losses. In Belarus, the Internet was restricted for 218 hours in 2020, causing a loss of about Rs 2,500 crores. Among the 5 countries that suffered the most due to the Internet blackout are Yemen, Myanmar and Azerbaijan, besides India and Belarus. There was a combined loss of more than Rs 27,000 crores in these five countries. In the year 2020, internet was shut down for 27,165 hours in 21 countries of the world. Of this, 21,613 hours included internet blackout and 5,552 hours of ban on social media. This caused a loss of Rs 30,000 crores to these countries. The alarming thing is that this figure saw a jump of 49% over 2019. According to the report, the two biggest reasons behind the internet ban offered are political and prevailing tense situation. 11,970 hours on internet was banned due to tense situation. Under CRPC 1973 and the Indian Telegraph Act 1885, government agencies have the right to shut down the Internet in the states or districts of India. Apart from this, on the basis of the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules 2017, the government can also ask the telecom companies to suspend their services.