Postpaid connections restored in Jammu & Kashmir but access restricted due to charges levied.

Tl;dr

As per a press report in the Quint, the communication shutdowns in Kashmir was partially lifted providing postpaid users access to voice calls. However, while having regained access to voice calling facilities are required to clear payments for services over the last two months in order to make use of their services. We write to the DOT explaining why these charges must be waived.

Post-paid access is back, then what's the problem?

The Quint on October 14, 2019 in a press report by Shushovan Sircar informed that residents of Kashmir holding postpaid connections were given access to their connections after a communication shutdown that lasted over two months. However, although these voice calling facilities were made available, the only way users were able to make use of their subscriptions were if they cleared payments worth two months of shutdown. Further, an update to the report informed that as a ‘special gesture’ Airtel waived postpaid charges for specifically Airtel Thanks customers only.

Airtel to Waive Aug-Sept Dues in Kashmir as ‘Special Gesture’

In light of this targetted application of the waiver, we write to the DOT on the need to provide regulatory directions to ISPs on the waiving of fees charged during the communication shutdown in order for it to be carried out uniformly across service providers.

In our submission we urge the DOT to direct this waiver on the basis for two reasons:

  • Force Majeure: The communication shutdown is a Force Majeure event where users should not faced with charges levied for services they were unable to use during exigent circumstances. There has been sufficient coverage of the significant amount of economic, physical and mental suffering the residents of Kashmir have experienced and the inability to make user of their subscriptions until they clear payments only furthers this as it continues to disconnect them from their friends and families.
  • Past practices: In September 2014, Jammu and Kashmir endured severe floods where as per a press report in the Economic Times, affected the delivery of communication services. In response to this, BSNL waived charges period it was unable to provide services much like the current situation. While this sets a good standard, with no direction provided by the DOT to this effect once again creates varying practices amongst ISPs.

The waiving of such charges should not even be an ask but a given. Nonetheless, we still urge the DOT urgently direct the ISPs on the basis of their powers under the Telegraph Act and the UA License Conditions to issue directions to have such charges waived and any payments refunded for the period when the communication shutdown was in effect.

Important Documents

  1. Representation to the DOT to waive charges in Jammu and Kashmir (link)

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