Indian authorities lifted a ban on social media and restored full internet access in Kashmir on Wednesday evening, seven months after the disputed region was locked down and stripped of its partial autonomy. The order, which still places certain restrictions on mobile internet services, is only valid till March 17, unless extended.
Among various conditions, the order, issued by the Principal Secretary, Home, Shaleen Kabra, says Internet connectivity will be made available “with mac-binding”. So what is mac-binding and what are the other conditions on internet usage in Jammu and Kashmir?
What Is Mac-Binding?
Every device has a Media Access Control (MAC) address, a hardware identification number that is unique to it. While accessing the Internet, every device is assigned an IP address.
Mac-binding essentially means binding together the MAC and IP addresses, so that all requests from that IP address are served only by the computer having that particular MAC address.
In effect, it means that if the IP address or the MAC address changes, the device can no longer access the Internet. Also, monitoring authorities can trace the specific system from which a particular online activity was carried out.
What Are The Other Restrictions?
The Internet can be accessed on all postpaid devices, and those using Local Area Networks (LAN).
On pre-paid networks, the order says: “While the postpaid SIM card holders shall continue to be provided access to the Internet, these services shall not be made available on prepaid SIM cards unless verified as per the norms applicable for postpaid connections.”
Apart from this, special access terminals provided by the government will continue to run. “It is further directed that the access/communication facilities provided by the government, viz. e-terminals/Internet kiosks apart from special arrangements for tourists, students, traders etc shall continue,” the order says.
Only 2G Connections
Internet speed in Jammu and Kashmir is still restricted to 2G. This means very slow services — pictures will take a long time to be sent or downloaded, videos will be nearly impossible to share, and there will be a long loading time for most websites.
People could only access some websites pre-approved by the government, some sites designed for a 4G Internet experience will hardly work.
So, only 2G postpaid connections, verified prepaid connections, and fixed lines with Mac address binding can access the internet. Internet restrictions in the Kashmir valley were partially eased in January, following a review order by the Indian Supreme Court. "Suspension of the internet for an indefinite period is not permissible, it can be for a limited time period and is subject to judicial review," the court said, adding that freedom of speech includes the right to internet access.
So this lift of restrictions is still very restrictive and people are looking forward to a proper lift on the ban and restrictions.