Internet service providers in Delhi will soon be writing to the Department of Telecom (DoT) about their inability to block websites of Uber and Ola, reports Economic Times. This move comes after the DoT had apparently asked ISPs to block the websites of Ola, TaxiForSure and Uber in Delhi for no clear reason, earlier this week.
This directive issued by the DoT mentioned that action would be taken against the ISPs that did not comply. However, according to a later report by BGR, the DoT had only sent a formal request to the ISPs asking them if the three aggregators can be blocked specifically in Delhi, which was wrongly taken by the ISPs as an order.
In either case, it seems like the Dot is testing if ISPs are indeed capable of blocking such aggregators and it seems like they aren’t. The internet service providers are claiming that they are unable to block https websites due to their encryption, although they can block TaxiForSure, which operates on the insecure http protocol. However, the ISPs said users would still be able to use the mobile app to avail these aggregators, even if they blocked the websites.
A note on HTTPS: From outside of an https SSL connection, ISPs are only able to see the server name, not the website url. This is usually enough to block certain websites that run their own servers, as the server is identified. Carrying out url based blocking on https websites does not work as the url is undisclosed. For example blocking the url uber.com will not work, however ISPs can still block the servers the traffic comes from. This can result in collateral damage as other websites on the same server will also end up being blocked.
Government stance on taxi aggregators: Interestingly, last month the Indian government had ruled out banning cab-hailing apps like Uber and Ola, but said it would impose conditions to make their operations safer. This was after the the Delhi government had asked the Ministry of Communications & IT to block the online taxi booking apps of Uber and Ola in the city in March.
In February, the Delhi government transport department had started a consultation with the Centre to block the IP address of Uber and shut down its operations in the country if it did not get a radio taxi licence to ply. The whole saga began following an alleged rape of a 27-year old woman by one of the Uber drivers in December, when the Delhi Government considered cancelling the permission of Uber and scrutinizing the permits of all private taxi services.