A new report has emerged on the internet indicating that Reliance Jio, one of the largest telecom operators in India may be violating net neutrality. As part of the violation, it looks like the company is blocking VPN and proxy websites on the internet network that it provides its subscribers. According to the report, this was initially spotted by a number of users on internet forum Reddit. According to the India subreddit on the website, users pointed out that the company seems to be blocking popular proxy and VPN websites including hide.me, vpnboook.com, and whoer.net/webproxy.
Reddit users also noted that this block was not limited to the above-mentioned websites and extended to websites that are used for downloading and uploading files, multihost, and torrent indexer. A number of torrent and other websites are already on the country-wide block list after multiple court orders due to content piracy but users generally use VPN and proxy websites to surpass these restrictions. VPN and proxy websites do not break any rules or regulations under the current Indian law. A report by Quartz India pointed out that this a violation of the fundamental rule of net neutrality as all ISPs (Internet Service Providers) must treat all data equally.
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According to the report, the number of proxy websites blocked on an internet connection by Jio includes Hide.me, Proxysite, VPNbook, Hidester, Kproxy, Megaproxy, and Proxy.toolur. It is worth noting that these websites were not blocked by other ISPs in the country including Airtel, Vodafone, Spectranet, and ACT. The report also stated that this means that Jio “is choosing to restrict access” to these websites “independent of any government order”.
This blocking is problematic as VPN and proxy websites need “to be considered” for data and privacy protection in India according to Apar Gupta, the executive director of digital rights organization Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF). While talking to Quartz India, Gupta also noted one issue with this matter and that is the lack of transparency. This ultimately pushes digital rights groups to simply “guess” instead of any certainty that an ISP is blocking these websites while violating net neutrality. We have reached out to Reliance Jio for an official statement and will update the article as and when we receive the response.