Centre for Internet & Society

On 4 November 2010, Anand had sent a complaint letter to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) regarding unethical practices adopted by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), particularly Airtel. The letter was sent by post and through an e-mail. It was addressed to the Advisor, CN & IT, TRAI. Anand got no help from the ISP and the reply from TRAI (No. 340-1\2010-CA/VOLv) stated that he contact the nodal officer. We have reproduced below the complaint letter that Anand sent to TRAI.

The Advisor,
New Delhi

Respected Sir,

I wanted to bring to your notice some unethical marketing practices being adopted by Airtel in their broadband market.

ISPs  in India,  especially Airtel and Tata  have recently started to use Domain Name System (DNS)  hijacking where they redirect a misspelled or a non-existent website to their own site — where they serve advertisements to make money and these get redirected to Airtel or Tata whenever you connect  to the Internet. The reply from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was: "DNS hijacking practice violates the RFC standard for DNS (NXDOMAIN) responses, and can potentially open users to cross-scripting attacks. According to ICANN, the international body responsible for administering top level domain names has published a memorandum highlighting its concerns, affirming that ICANN strongly discourages the use of DNS redirection, wildcards, synthesized responses and any other form of NXDOMAIN substitution in existing Generic Top Level Domains (GTLDs), Country-Code Top Level Domains (CCTLDs) and any other level in the DNS tree for registry-class domain names." See for example, http://goo.gl/lZ2r6 or http://goo.gl/fDLNC
Our ISPs are violating international regulations and exposing the customer to phishing and hacking. Here are their rules: RFC 2308 - Negative Caching of DNS Queries (DNS NCACHE) (rfc2308). See http://goo.gl/QrKLs
I hope TRAI fines Airtel for their unethical practices. Now even toll free customer complaint numbers are no longer toll free. They charge 50 paise per call.
One of the most dangerous things that Airtel and Tata have done is to secretly throttle internet traffic particularly of peer-to-peer (P2P) protocol and not telling the customers, thereby violating the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. In October 2010, Airtel and Tata began using Elitecore's networking bandwidth tool NetVertex to throttle net traffic.
This violates net neutrality principle and could make the internet a cable television system where for different protocols different tariffs would be charged. Please watch this clip on net neutrality.
Since January 2011 Airtel is throttling P2P speeds to 256k from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. If a user has 1\2\4 mbps connection, his\her speeds are being throttled to 256 k. The only legal proof that customers have is the results from this site which tells if your connection is being throttled for specific protocols (for example, http, ftp, torrent, video streaming, email, etc) known as glasnost test. 

This forum has many Airtel users complaining about this. For example: http://goo.gl/Utd72, http://goo.gl/uLZdg, http://goo.gl/bfgaE and http://goo.gl/S7lIQ

Sir P2P is controversial as it used to download copyright works but P2P is also used for legitimate files like Linux OS or Legit P2P streaming. Some torrent sites only provide legit torrents, for example,mininova.

In 2006 TRAI had a consultation paper on network neutrality para 3.6.2. In the reply, organisations like Google, Skype and Microsoft recommended that network neutrality be made a law. See the Google letter for network neutrality of August 2010.

In 2011 the TRAI-NGN said that they have not found any ISP violating this but I have been writing to TRAI since October 2010 to warn them about the impending 2 tier internet which is coming to India, page 91. 

Like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which fined Comcast ISP in USA $ 16 million for secretly blocking P2P, TRAI should at least codify network neutrality as a simple sentence stating "All internet traffic irrespective of protocols and carrier shall be treated as neutral" and fine Airtel via Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal for violating Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

FCC passed diluted rules and TRAI should not copy FCC. I hope TRAI takes action against illegal secret P2P throttling and DNS hijacking.
Yours respectfully,
Filed under:
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