Opinion: Internet Shutdown Is The Modern Day Emergency In India

Here's why internet shutdowns in India are a matter of concern

India Internet Shutdown featured image
Image: Unsplash

The internet services on and around the borders of Delhi have been hit because of the ongoing farmer protests. While the official narrative for the internet shutdown is to maintain law and order, there’s much more to it than just that.

How Internet Shutdown Affects You?

Internet shutdown- No internet connection on Chrome

Let’s talk about how we use the internet on a daily basis. Most of us receive ‘good morning’ messages from friends and family. We use the internet to read the news, browse social media, check the weather, and so on.

Going further, schools and offices are now online because of the ongoing pandemic, and many students, including my own sibling, are head-butting with online exams. Even if you’re not working from home, your job probably requires you to have an active internet connection.

In a nutshell, the internet is not just a part of our lives that we can get rid of. We use it to work and to unwind. While that’s just an overview of what daily activities are hit by the internet, think of the merchants taking losses and not being able to check what’s going on in the market.

Internet Shutdown In India: Numbers

infographic showing Internet shutdown in India

Now that my point is somewhat clear, let’s talk numbers and how they’re affecting you and your loved ones. According to the Internet Shutdowns and internet shutdown tracker, India had 468 internet shutdowns between January 2012 and February 2021. Out of these 409 shutdowns were between 2017-2021 (February).

This is just the number of times the internet was cut off. A single internet shutdown lasts somewhere between 24 hours to several days. The longest internet shutdown in India lasted over 200 days in Kashmir.

Another report by TOP10VPN says that in 2020, India was on internet shutdown for over 8,900 hours, affecting 10.3 million users and causing $2.7 billion in economic losses. In a nutshell, an internet shutdown is bad for the users as well as the economy.

India is among the top 3 fastest-growing internet markets. India is also the country with the maximum number of internet shutdowns. Ironically, we talk about the “dream of a Digital India” and then cut off the internet citing law and order situations.

The Public Emergency

Parliament of India representative image for internet shutdown in India
Image: Unsplash

That’s probably the protocol behind the closed doors every time the government decides on following through an internet suspension or shutdown. The legal name for the internet shutdown playbook in India is “rules to regulate the temporary suspension of telecom services due to public emergency or public safety.”

“Public Emergency” is the primary reason for which the government of India considers an internet suspension. Assuming all the shutdowns were necessary, India has been in a state of public emergency for over a year now.

In 2019 alone, the government of India cut off the internet 93 times in different parts of the country. 72 of these were preventative or preemptive internet shutdowns. Nothing had happened, but the internet was taken away anyway.

Reasons For Frequent Internet Suspension

One of the reasons India faces such quick internet suspensions is because of the state of affairs in the past years. Fringe elements use social media to create chaos. India has seen crimes like mob-lynching because of misinformation spread via WhatsApp.

At times, such news is capable of starting a riot or turning a peaceful protest into a genocide. That said, the government should look at solutions to cut down misinformation, rather than cutting down the internet.

Complete dismissal of such shutdowns is also not feasible. However, a majority of internet shutdowns in Delhi and internet suspension in Haryana happened during protests.

Should You Be Bothered?

One of the instances of internet shutdown was in Assam during NRC protests. The Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, tweeted to the people of Assam to maintain calm after cutting off the internet in Assam. Twitteratis immediately lashed out at the PM.

Rounding up, India, as well as the world, needs to recognize the internet and take internet suspensions more seriously. Such cutoffs hit the economy, undermine human rights, and make the country look undemocratic.

More than that, with everything shifting online, shutting down the internet is like putting a halt on jobs, businesses, schools, and basically a halt on progress.

FAQs About Internet Shutdown

  1. What is an internet shutdown?

    An internet shutdown is a government-imposed cut-off from the internet. Ideally, internet shutdown or suspension is only to be done in case of a public emergency.

  2. What are the different types of internet shutdowns?

    There are multiple types of internet shutdowns. The most common ones are blanket shutdown, where the entire internet is cut off, and surgical shutdown, where access to one or multiple sites is banned by the government.

  3. Are there different degrees of internet shutdown?

    Yes, an internet suspension can be done for only mobile data (3G, 4G, LTE) or fixed-line. In a mobile data ban, the WiFi and ethernet connections still work. However, if the government decides to ban fixed-line as well, then there's no way to access the internet.

Manik Berry

Manik Berry

With a Master’s degree in journalism, Manik writes about big tech and has a keen eye for political-tech news. In his free time, he’s browsing the Kindle store for new stuff read. Manik also adores his motorcycle and is looking for new routes on weekends. He likes tea and cat memes. You can reach him at [email protected]
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