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Telcos and tech firms urge Central govt to regulate internet shutdowns

An industry association for India's largest tech and telecommunications companies has requested the central government to regulate internet shutdowns across the nation to help prevent uncertainties caused by states issuing such orders, according to sources and a letter obtained by Reuters.

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New Delhi: An industry association for India’s largest tech and telecommunications companies has requested the central government to regulate internet shutdowns across the nation to help prevent uncertainties caused by states issuing such orders, according to sources and a letter obtained by Reuters.

In the purpose of maintaining law and order, the government has stated that states should be in charge of emergency internet shutdowns in 2019.

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The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), which includes Alphabet’s Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Reliance among others, wrote to the government claiming that the current arrangement “causes tremendous difficulty to the local populace at large.”

Only the federal government should operate as the regulatory authority for internet suspensions, according to the letter, which was seen by Reuters. States must adhere to a method set down by it.

According to two industry sources, a federal control would make implementing shutdowns easier.

According to a research published by internet privacy group top10vpn, internet outages cost the nation more than $580 million in 2021, with 59 million individuals affected by a wireless service outage that lasted more than 1,150 hours.

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According to internet advocacy group Access Now, India has accounted for 58% of the 182 global internet shutdowns that were documented last year, placing it in first place globally for the past four years.

This is a common tactic used by state governments in the nation to uphold peace and order, such as during protests, or in some circumstances to stop exam cheating.

IAMAI’s letter to the government—which has not yet been made public—comes at a time when major Indian tech companies are already subject to tougher regulations regarding everything from data storage to compliance standards, driving up their costs and deterring investment plans.

The letter is a component of a larger response from IAMAI to the government’s request for stakeholder opinions on updating the legal framework governing the telecom industry.

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Requests for feedback regarding the IAMAI letter from the Indian Ministry of Communications went unanswered. Google, Facebook, Twitter, the industry association, and Reliance all remained silent.

“Internet shutdowns are widely disproportionate and excessive. They hurt livelihoods, education, health care for lakhs of people,” said Radhika Jhalani, Volunteer Legal Counsel at Software Freedom and Law Center, which has tracked the issue.

Shutdowns “put their lives at standstill” for the 96% of Indians who use mobile internet, she noted.

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