Internet users across India have reported instances of their telecom provider or ISP blocking websites, torrents, VPN services and Telegram (web), over a 2-week period, according to a crowdsourced document created by the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF). IFF says that these users are spread across metros as well as smaller cities.

One of the blocked websites

Its findings:

  • Mobile internet users reported the most blocks: Reliance Jio and Airtel were top CSPs, while ACT Fibernet, BSNL, Vodafone and Hathway were mentioned
  • Jio has mostly blocked the proxies and VPN services.

MediaNama has reached out to Jio and Airtel for a comment and will update this when we hear from them.

IFF states that, “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.”

It adds that due to lack of a reporting mechanism, users are left in the dark when it comes to the reason behind the blocks and interference. It highlighted that it is unclear whether the DoT or the TRAI monitor such blocks.

Also read: Indian Express’ domain blocked by Airtel & Vodafone; now live

India’s porn ban

Note that in October last year, the Department of Telecom, for the second time, implemented a ban on over 800 pornographic websites. At the time, resurrected from the (somewhat) tightly shut and forgotten crypt of 2015, the Uttarakhand High Court ordered the IT Ministry to enforce the ban of 857 porn websites. The ban was brought in to “avoid adverse influence on the impressionable mind of the children.” Internet service providers which did not comply with the order would have their licenses terminated, the court said. We’d pointed out in the past that this order was vaguely worded and that it was up to the ISPs to implement it.

Mobile and broadband connected users on the rise in India

Note that India added 9.6 million active mobile connections in November 2018, with Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio accounting for 94% of total active mobile connections in India, according to data released by the TRAI.

  • There were 1.031 billion active connections in the month of November 2018
  • Now, Airtel has 99.45% of connections active on its network – the highest among all telcos

India had 481.7 million wireless and wireline broadband connections at the end of September 2018, an increase of 8% over a three month period starting from June 2018.

Jio subscribers on the rise

Reliance Industries Limited’s digital services business brought in revenues of Rs 12,302 crore for the quarter ended 31 December 2018 (Q3FY19). It had 280.1 million subscribers, up from 252.3 million in the previous quarter, and 160.1 million in Q3FY18. Jio added 27.8 million net subscribers this quarter (as against previous four-quarter average of 28.4 million). Over the last 12 months, its net subscriber addition was 120 million.

Also relevant:

On OTT regulation, relationship with telcos, substitutability and lawful interception issues: #NAMA discussion on OTT regulation

Our censorship coverage.

Disclaimer: MediaNama Founder and Editor Nikhil Pahwa was part of the founding team of the IFF.