Govt lifts ban on pre-paid mobile phones in J&K

Restores low-speed mobile internet across Jammu and north Kashmir’s Kupwara, Bandipora

Srinagar: The government on Saturday announced restoration of pre-paid mobile services across Jammu and Kashmir and low-speed internet on mobiles in Jammu and two districts of Kashmir. However, only ‘white-listed’ websites excluding news websites can be accessed by users.
Announcing the decisions in Jammu, Principal Secretary Planning, Rohit Kansal, who is also the government spokesperson said the companies that are engaged in Software (IT/ITES) services will be provided with fixed line internet connectivity by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs- BSNL/Private Service Providers) with the precautions as already directed as per the order issued by the Home Department last week. However, the ban on internet to media organisations in the Valley has not been lifted.
The order issued by Home secretary Shaleen Kabra ordered resumption of 2G internet on post-paid mobile phones in Bandipora and Kupwara. Also, 2G internet has been restored in rest of the five districts in Jammu which were facing the blackout since August 5 but without social media.
However, ban on mobile internet in Srinagar, Budgam, Ganderbal, Baramulla, Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama will continue, he added.
According to the government spokesperson, the competent authority has released a list of all 153 websites that have been identified as white list category and can be accessed through 2G mobile data services.
Earlier the J&K administration following the Supreme Court verdict reviewed the internet ban within a week in Jammu and Kashmir on January 14. The court had asked the government to make public all the restrictive orders issued in Jammu and Kashmir over the past five months so they can be challenged legally while mentioning that suspension of free movement, internet and basic freedoms cannot be an arbitrary exercise of power.
This followed restoration of 2G internet on post-paid mobile phones in five Jammu districts while in Kashmir broadband services to hoteliers and tour and travel operators was resumed. On Saturday, the government order further relaxed the ban and ordered for restoration of internet to IT companies and two districts of the Valley apart from pre-paid voice calling across J&K.
Kansal said that the Telecom Service Providers should start the process for verification of credentials of pre-paid mobile subscribers as per the norms applicable for post-paid connections for mobile internet.
The telecom operators are being issued instructions to operationalize the orders immediately providing for all the safeguards detailed in the order issued by the competent authority, he added.
He added that the effort of the government is to facilitate and to keep restrictions to the bare minimum based on the ground situation.
“Prior to giving such facility, the internet Service Providers shall install necessary firewalls and carry out ‘white-listing‘ of sites that would enable access to government websites, websites dealing with essential services, e-banking, etc. excluding, however, all the social media sites. To amplify, there shall be complete restriction on social media applications allowing peer to peer communication and virtual private network applications for the time being,” said the order.
The internet has been blocked for more than five months in Kashmir since the Government of India abrogated Article 370 on August 5. AcessNow, an international watchdog for tracking internet shutdowns described Kashmir’s internet suspension as the longest ever imposed in a democracy.

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