May 30, 2019

Net Neutrality enforcement in India needs to find its bearings.

TRAI will release a new round of consultation on the compliance of net neutrality. We continue to restate the need for an enforcement mechanism and transparency and disclosure.

Coming in very shortly after the re-activation of SaveTheInternet campaign and IFF's complaint to the Department of Telecommunication, news reports state that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has announced that it will be releasing a fresh consultation paper on compliance with net neutrality (Read here for more). This paper will also aim to identify certain critical applications that could claim exemptions from current net neutrality principles.

While we're greatly appreciative of TRAI's move to tackle net neutrality violations, we continue to relay our concerns in maintaining net neutrality as explained in our previous posts (Read here for more). We included this in our recent complaint to the DOT and TRAI which discussed the implementation of an enforcement mechanism, the need for which has rapidly increased with unrestrained website blocking over the last couple of months.

IFF continues to monitor the scene with SavetheInternet's "Take Action Petition" receiving support from over a 1126 individuals emphasising the need for the enforcement of Net Neutrality. In addition, although the number of reports have reduced, our online reporting tool has received fresh responses of websites (Read here for more) being blocked since March 25, 2019. Here is a brief analysis.

  • Streaming/VPN/Porn: Continued reports of blocking against torrent and streaming websites, VPNs, porn websites and reddit spread over a wide geography within India.
  • Cryptocurrency/Cloud Storage: A recent addition has been reports of the blocking of cryptocurrency websites, the kickstarter website, cloud storage site "mega.nz" and Cloudflare's DNS Server.
  • Throttling: Further, there has been throttling of speeds without the use of a VPN on BSNL. Apart from the regular ISP's Jio, Act Fibernet and You broadband, wired connections such as Airwire, Spectra, Smartlink and GTPL have also engaged in blockings.
  • Code Injections: While not malicious, there has been an instance of BSNL injecting advertisements into non-https websites.

We restate the urgency and necessity for taking positive action not limited to an enforcement mechanism but also to the need for transparency and disclosure regulations for ISP's to ensure compliance with license amendments. Due importance to this needs to be given in the upcoming consultation process.

Continuing with advocacy

Today, we wrote again to the DOT marking a copy to TRAI pursues the issue further writing to the DOT informing them of the continued blocking. With no recourse to this, the need for an appropriate enforcement mechanism looms over the functioning of a free and open internet. IFF will participate in the public consultation to ensure that an enforcement mechanism in line with TRAI's recommendations is advocated for and any other complementary steps deemed necessary.

  • Raw spreadsheet of recent reports violations (link)
  • Representation to the Department of Telecommunications on continued reports of Net Neutrality violations dated 29.05.2019 (link)
  • Recent representation to the Department Of Telecommunications on reports of net neutrality violations dated 27.03.2019 (link)