The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Now, stay online on Dal lake

Srinagar, Nov. 3 (Reuters): Two months ago, mobile phones were forbidden in Kashmir. Now, anyone can surf the worldwide web from the houseboats and gondolas dotting the waters of the Dal lake.

In a bid to woo back foreign tourists, authorities have made the sprawling lake in the summer capital, Srinagar, the world’s latest, and certainly one of its most unusual, Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) “hotspots”.

“This facility... (will) tap travellers who would like to remain connected to the rest of the world,” Jammu and Kashmir tourism chief Saleem Beig said today. “It goes a long way in sending the right kind of signals to tourists.”

WiFi allows users with laptops and other wireless gadgets to connect to the Internet through local access points, known as hotspots, set up by an Internet service provider.

Popular across much of Asia, where hotspots, with a range of a few hundred metres, include hotels, restaurants and city streets, WiFi is only just taking off even in Indian cities.

In Kashmir, authorities have long kept a tight leash on all communications to make it harder for separatists to contact each other and for years refused to allow even limited mobile phone services in Srinagar and the winter capital, Jammu.

But getting tourists back, especially foreigners, is seen as vital to the economy and to restoring normal life. More than a million tourists, almost half from abroad, flocked to Kashmir’s lakes, pine forests and its towering snow-tipped Himalayan peaks each year before the bloody rebellion broke out in 1989.

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