Reliance Jio, the third largest mobile carrier in India, is blocking access to several proxy and VPN sites that allow users to anonymously browse the web and sidestep internet service providers’ content restrictions online. Quartz reported the incident today, following reports from several Redditors in a thread from last week.
That’s worrying, because it indicates that Jio – which claims to have 250 million subscribers (PDF) and offers some of the cheapest data plans in the world – is in violation of net neutrality principles that state that ISPs should treat all online traffic equally. The government approved these principles last August.
TNW tested the sites listed – Hide.me, VPNbook, Hidester, Kproxy, Proxysite, Proxy.toolur, and Megaproxy – and found them to blocked on Jio. The same sites were accessible via other ISPs and mobile carriers like ACT and Airtel. That could mean Jio is blocking these sites without any government directives.
The news follows India’s nationwide ban on more than 800 porn sites last October. At that time, Jio was believed to have begun blocking those sites before other ISPs in the country. Jio hasn’t yet shared a response to our questions about the latest site blocks; we’ll update this post when we learn more.
India is notorious for blocking internet access and banning specific sites – not only because of the number of such incidents, but also because of the lack of transparency from the government when it comes to these restrictions. It’s alarming to see this sort of behavior extending to private ISPs.