In May this year, UNESCO released a report on Internet shutdown and put Indian on the top. It said that India has witnessed maximum cases of Internet shutdown, an intentional disruption of the Internet service to control communication or online content or slowing down the access to the general public.
Undeterred by such reports, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) continues to push for disruption of Internet services using more advanced technology—IPv6.
The government is in talks with telecom service providers, device manufacturers, and other stakeholders and urging them to quickly upgrade their networks and machines to internet protocol version 6, or IPv6. With the new upgradation of the technology, it will be easier to block internet services more precisely and specifically to target security and law and order concerns.
Unlike the current situation, it will be possible for the government to impose Internet ban in specific areas without hampering the service of an entire district or taluka.
The government’s new move is aimed to save the economy losses the country suffered during such shutdowns of services. According to a 2018 study by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, there has been 16,000 hours of internet shutdowns in the country over the past five years, leading to a loss of about $3 billion.
The department has also written to telecom companies and enquired from them whether social media applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram and others can be blocked to maintain law and order.
Experts explain that IPv4 protocol allows only for a finite number of URLs (about 4.3 billion). With the proliferation of personal computers, smartphones, gaming devices etc., there has been a woeful shortage of IP addresses. To meet this shortage, dynamic IP addresses are used. As these are not unique to devices or users, it is impossible to block precise ones.
They said the IPV6 protocol has 340 undecillion IP addresses; this means, every device will have a unique address, making it easier for the DoT to aim for a more granular blocking of devices and services that it can do at present.
With the rising cases of blocking of Internet services in India, even courts have raised concerns.
Recently, with the increasing cases of Internet shutdown in Rajasthan, the State High Court had directed the state government to respond within three weeks on the rising instances of shutdowns in a public interest litigation filed in court over internet unavailability.
The development was first reported by Business Standard.