On January 10, 2019, following up on reports of network interferences to proxy and VPN websites from Reddit and a story in Quartz India we made an online reporting form for users to report such instances. A summary of the reports is provided below and a data sheet has also been made available as we seek further data and request for collaboration from the wider net neutrality community in India as we continue pushing for enforcement.
Summary of reports
- A total of 134 reports have been provided to us from the different cities and states spread across evenly over a 2 week reporting period. These include reports from major metropolitan cities and as well as smaller towns such as Siliguri, Udupi and Mindapur. We can reasonably infer this is a pan India problem.
- The reports primarily arise from users of mobile internet (64.4%). They are concentrated across two telecom operators which also have licenses to provide internet services. These are Reliance Jio with approximately 85 complaints and Airtel with 41 complaints. Other telcos and ISPs which also find mention are, ACT Fibernet, BSNL, Vodafone and Hathway.
- The reports on blocking of proxy and VPNs are concentrated for Jio. These include detailed statements which go beyond the blocking of pornographic websites or domains which may be blocked by interim injunctions by orders of courts. Most reports on Airtel conflate the blocking of pornographic websites but also state that it is blocking the Telegram domain (different from the usage of the app, or its download through an App store).
A version of the form which redacts the personal details of the respondents is available here.
- Users are generally not aware of the reasons for network interference with websites and internet services in India. There are no clear statements or information available on the reason which may emerge from any legal order that is made available to them. They also are left wondering if this fault may be caused due to a technical error or may have commercial or regulatory interest attached to it. Further, there lacks any institutional process to gather or request such information in a standardised manner.
- There is a lack of any data gathering or reporting mechanism available for complaints about blocking and throttling. Hence, in the absence of any such system users are left to correspond with the consumer helplines of telecom operators which lack the technical ability and the incentive to address issues of systemic, network interference. It is not publicly known whether such monitoring even takes place by the Department of Telecom or by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
We need enforcement to #SaveTheInternet
The extent of the complaints and our analysis indicates the need to press demands for the enforcement of India’s net neutrality protections. We call on academics, activists, technologists, civil society groups, network engineers and those from the wider net neutrality community to help us collaborate with data and then press for enforcement.
Please do write to us, we would like to share your experience and work on net neutrality engagement since the regulations were made, share our learnings and data, and discuss policy and enforcement actions in the true spirit of collaboration.
Link to important posts