“It is darkest before dawn”, is a cliche´ that is done to death. But the reason, for it being so widely used is that it accurately describes positive movements and public victories -- right when things look like they won't change.
This fits perfectly with the ongoing civil society efforts on Net Neutrality and Internet shutdowns. On both these issues the Department of Telecom (DoT) has taken positive steps which need to be supported and extended with further action.
As we had indicated in our previous update the DOT's action for license amendments has now brought in firm, legal rules to safeguard net neutrality in India. We need to safeguard the intent of these amendments and also address areas which still require regulatory clarity. This is most particularly felt with respect to devising a transparent and public reporting mechanism for notifying net neutrality violations in India.
As reported by the Wire in our ongoing advocacy on this issue, we have through an RTI been provided with a letter dated 28.09.2018 issued by the DoT that says two significant things. First, it acknowledges that internet shutdowns is a problem, second it asks State Governments and Union Territories to issue such orders with restraint. But much more needs to be done.
Further action by IFF
We yesterday wrote a letter to the DoT requesting for their time to have digital rights placed on the agenda for 2019. From further measures on Net Neutrality to the creation of a centralised, transparent system of data gathering of internet suspensions and also requested for an open public consultation on the legal rules which as per us are not only unconstitutional but also operationally problematic.
Public victories build incrementally
With the victory in the Rajasthan High Court, increasing parliamentary scrutiny and now this letter/advisory, there is real hope that India will emerge from internet blackouts into dawn. Our continuing victories on internet shutdowns are possible due to the actions of individuals such as Dhirendra Rajpurohit and his team of lawyers; SFLC.in who has built an influential tracker and filed RTIs to document their frequency, number and process; Research organisations such as CIS, CCG, DEF, FII, IDP, ICRIER's influential study on their costs, and a recent analysis by GenderIT.
The power of citizen engagement
In April, 2017 more the 15,000 people and 80 organisations signed the #KeepUsOnline petition last year against internet suspensions and voiced their concern against them. Due to their support we have had modest success and are optimistic for further steps by Government to ensure a positive movement for greater internet access. Working together we will keep winning for our constitutional rights to a free and open internet.
Link to our Documents:
- RTI Application No. DOTEL/R/2018/51130 dated December 3, 2018
- Response from the DOT dated 07.12.2018
- Letter dated December 17, 2018 to the Secretary, DOT
- Work: The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) is a civil liberties non-profit working on technology and fundamental rights. We work across a wide spectrum, with expertise in free speech, digital surveillance and privacy, net neutrality and innovation to champion of freedom in the digital space. To ensure that people in the world's largest democracy use the internet with liberty guaranteed under the Constitution of India.
- Transparency: We are a non-profit registered under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act. Aimed towards greater accountability to our donors who are ordinary internet users in India like you we have published detailed financial information that is updated regularly.