Forced blackouts in India costing mobile operators $343k p/hour

Women display placards during a protest, organised by West Bengal State Jamiat-e-Ulama, an Islamic organisation, against a new citizenship law, in Kolkata, India, December 22, 2019. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

TeleGeography: Government-imposed internet blackouts to control protests are causing India’s mobile operators to lose around INR24.5 million (USD343,400) in revenue for every hour that services are suspended, the Economic Times reports, citing industry lobby group the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

Following the passing of a controversial citizenship law in December 2019, the government has issued intermittent orders for internet service shutdowns to prevent protestors from coordinating online. COAI head Rajan Mathews was quoted as saying that the organisation had calculated the cost to its members at around INR24.5 million for every hour that services were suspended.

Mobile services were shut down in areas of New Delhi on 19 December, with more recent blackouts taking place in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Assam, and West Bengal. Jammu & Kashmir, meanwhile, is gradually having connectivity restored following a region-wide shut down in August 2019, similarly to mitigate protests following the passing of controversial legislation.

In a separate report, the BBC cites the New Delhi-based Software Freedom Law Centre’s Internet Shutdown Tracker as showing that the use of blackouts has accelerated over the last few years. According to the group there were just six shutdowns in 2014, but this rose to 31 in 2016, 79 in 2017 and 134 in 2018.

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