Internet services remained disrupted in many parts of Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday. Most cities in the State with a significant concentration of Muslim population saw stricter implementation of the mobile Internet ban.

Consumers told BusinessLine that they were able to access mobile Internet service sporadically through the days of the ban, but there was no reliability. The experience varied even within the same city. Some residents said Internet services came on and off at varying times of the day for an hour or so.

Consumers are also pointing out steps that telecom companies should take to rebuild consumer confidence. “With the Internetshut for close to a week now, I would be paying a fourth of my monthly mobile bill without availing the data service. Since calls are largely free now, we pay our bills only to have access to mobile data,” a private telecom mobile service subscriber said.

“Telecom companies should give us grace days because we could not avail the service that we have paid for,” he added.

As per the Telecom Statistics of India (TSI) 2018, Uttar Pradesh has 167.59 million wireless telecom (mobile) subscribers. These users are evenly spread across urban and rural regions. With 14.1 per cent of the total subscribers, UP has the highest number of mobile users in the country.

Curbing spread of violence

These bans are being enforced since December 19 as a precautionary measure to curb spread of violence in light of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests gripping the State. The police and the administration are now in the process of identifying protesters who indulged in damaging public property and arson. With the arrest and detention of Opposition leaders allegedly fanning protests, there has been a toning down of resistance.

“I stepped out of my gym and suddenly got a barrage of messages on WhatsApp. I thought Internet services have resumed, but within some 30 minutes access was rescinded again. There was no message from the telecom company regarding the switching on or off of the service,” a Lucknow resident said.

Some residents travelling outside the city said that they noticed Internet availability near the Lucknow airport but at a slower speed. But on the whole, consumers or businesses could not access the Internet with reliability for normal every-day transactions.

“The mobile Internet shutdown has severely impacted banking services with consumers now forced to visit branches even for minor tasks that could be handled through a mobile app,” a branch manager at a public sector bank said.

Cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber, and mobile app-based food delivery services such as Zomato and Swiggy remained offline through much of the State.

The exemptions were Noida and Greater Noida where Internet services were not shut down. The situation was starkly different in Ghaziabad, where even broadband services were shutdown for a day.

According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, ‘Digital India: Technology to transform a connected nation’, low-income States such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand were among the five fastest-growing States in internet penetration between 2014 and 2018. Uttar Pradesh alone added more than 36 million Internet subscribers in that period.