IFF received multiple complaints of irregular website blocking by ISPs (namely ACT and BSNL) in Bengaluru and Hyderabad. The ISPs have justified a couple them as responses to directions from the Government. IFF has written to both DoT and TRAI to take up the matter
- Background: There have been increasing reports of website blocking by various ISP's all over India. To which we built a crowd-sourced information form encouraging users to report violations of net neutrality they were facing.
- Need for an enforcement mechanism: The main threat to net neutrality is the absence of mechanism that monitors, reports and provide users with a well established redressal process to address violations.
Owing to a large public movement on Net Neutrality known as SaveTheInternet.in, the Telecom Regulations Authority of India (TRAI) made the, “Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016” which banned zero rated services after much public protest. Further consultations on the issue of technical discrimination led to the TRAI eventually introducing amendments to the Unified License conditions which upheld the intrinsic connection between net neutrality and free speech.
Need for Action
In our previous posts, we provided information of our analysis of the reports of blockings that we received (Read here for more). We also explain why website blocking is a violation of net neutrality here. In brief, when any blocking is carried out without direction or order of the Court/Government, it is considered to be discriminatory treatment. Additionally, even if this measure is being engaged, it is necessary that it be done in a manner that is “proportionate, transient and transparent”. Neither of these conditions have been met and have left users with no understanding of the reasons for such blockings or a mechanism for redressal. Hence, in light of the growing intensity of such violations and after seeking advice from external legal counsel, we have made a formal representation to the Department of Telecommunications requesting for certain interim steps to be carried out (Read here for more).
- That as an interim solution, investigation into the reports of violation submitted by close to 250 people, until an enforcement body in line with the recommendations of the TRAI, is set up.
- That the DOT enforce its authority to ask for records/information of compliance by licensors especially with regard to the complaints reported to us.
- That in ensuring deterrance of such violations, necessary fines for breach be considered.
However, these are just the initial steps in supporting TRAI's recommendations in creating an enforcement structure for Net Neutrality. We are only just beginning!
Links to important documents
- Representation to the Department Of Telecommunications (link)