In the era of frequent bans and blocks, VPN and proxy websites have long been a friend to canny Indian consumers, who have always found a way to skirt the government or Internet service providers’ overreach. Now, it seems that era maybe coming to an end. According to an online report, Reliance Jio, which is the third largest telecom operator in the country, is apparently blocking proxy websites on its network. The proxy websites are used to avoid the geographical Internet restrictions.
According to a report in Quartz, the apparent blocking of the proxy websites was first highlighted in a Reddit thread last week. The thread, which was started by a user called Alpha-Grizzly, noted that Reliance Jio was seemingly blocking proxy websites like hide.me, vpnbook.com, and whoer.net. The same was later confirmed by many other Reddit users in replies.
While visiting the blocked proxy websites, the ISP throws the message – “You are not authorized to access this web page as per the DOT compliance.” It is unclear which DOT rule the telecom operator is complying to and whether it has something to do with the recent porn ban.
We were able to independently verify that all the major proxy websites like hide.me, proxysite.com, hidester.com, kproxy.com, zend2.com, anonymouse.org, megaproxy.com, whoer.net, and vpnbook.com are indeed being blocked on Reliance Jio network. However, the VPN services seem to be working fine and we are able to use the free VPN offered in Opera Browser.
Quartz notes that these proxy websites are not being blocked by other telecom operators like Vodafone and Airtel as well as ISPs like Spectranet and ACT.
Apar Gupta, executive director of Internet Freedom Foundation, speculated to Quartz that the fact that the proxy websites are accessible on other networks indicates that Jio may be blocking them independent of any government order. However, given the general lack of transparency around the website blocking orders in India, it is almost impossible to find why a certain website is being blocked in the country.
Gupta also argued that Jio’s apparent blocking of proxy websites also violates a core principle of Net Neutrality that the ISP should not interfere with the access choice of a user. We have written to Reliance Jio for more information on the matter, but we could not elicit a response till the time of publication. We will update the story if we hear back from the telecom operator.