The Department of Telecommunications has asked telecom service providers and device manufacturers to quickly upgrade their networks and machines to internet protocol version 6, the latest internet standard, Business Standard reported on Tuesday. This will make it easier for the government to block internet services.

Every device connected to the internet requires a numerical internet protocol address to communicate with each other. The most widely used address scheme currently – called the internet protocol version 4 – supports only 4.3 billion addresses and with the proliferation of devices, it is fast getting depleted.

The updated communication protocol uses lengthier 128-bit internet protocol address unlike the 32-bit address used by the current communication protocol. This allows for a substantially larger number of possible addresses, or 340 undecillion numbers to be exact.

The current standard doesn’t allow every individual device to have an address, making blocking hard. The higher number of total addresses on IPv6 however would let each device have its own unique address, also allowing more targeted blocking.

Also, with the implementation of the new protocol, the hosting providers of websites and apps will not be rapidly changing internet protocol addresses to deal with the scarcity of address combinations, Medianama reported.

“We have been told that with this, it will be possible to block services more precisely,” an unidentified senior official in the department told Business Standard. “We are pushing stakeholders to upgrade their networks, devices, and apps to be IPv6-ready.”

Earlier this month, it was reported that the Union Ministry of Communications has asked telecom operators and internet service providers to explore ways of blocking mobile applications such as Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp during emergencies. The ministry sent a letter to companies, including Bharti Airtel Ltd, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, Vodafone India Ltd, Idea Cellular Ltd, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, and industry associations, on July 18, seeking their inputs.

But government officials allayed fears of any drastic step, and said this was only being discussed. State governments in the country, however, have sought to clamp down on internet time and again. The government in Jammu and Kashmir has frequently suspended the internet, while Rajasthan has also blocked internet services several times this year. Maharashtra blocked internet services during the Maratha quota stir, while Tripura curbed internet access to stop child-lifting rumours from spreading.

On August 3, the Centre told the Supreme Court that it was withdrawing a notification proposing to set up a social media hub to monitor the online data of people. The government had hoped to deploy the “social media analytical tool” to create digital profiles of citizens, ostensibly to gauge their opinions about official policies, according to a bid document issued in April by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.