The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has called on telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan to look into the suspension of internet services by state governments, particularly Rajasthan’s, which blocked internet services more than 140 times in the past one year.
According to a report by Financial Express, the director general of COAI, Rajan S Mathews, wrote to Sundararajan saying that the unwarranted suspension of internet services caused hardships to people.
Mathews also pointed to the economic cost that comes with frequent suspension. According to an ICRIER report in April, Indian states shut down internet services for a total of 16,315 hours between 2012 and 2017, which resulted in a total loss of around Rs 87,000 crore.
Sectors like e-commerce, IT services, tourism, and the media were forced to deal with the impact of these suspensions.
According to the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017, the shutdown of internet services can only be authorised by the home secretary.
In extraordinary circumstances, where seeking prior permission is not a feasible option, the decision can be taken by an officer who is joint secretary or above. Such an order would require the home secretary’s approval within 24 hours.
The letter alleged that the home department of Rajasthan has given divisional commissioners the authority to suspend internet services, which led to the suspension of internet services on more than 140 occasions.
The COAI said that Rajasthan suspended its internet services for various exams to prevent cheating. It alleged that in the event of any adverse circumstances, the state government would probably resort to blocking internet services almost immediately, and not as a last resort.
Mathews urged the telecom secretary to take up the issue.