Reliance Netconnect, the mobile CDMA broadband service of Reliance Communications, is reported to have blocked Wikipedia across the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka circles from November 15 till yesterday at around 4 p.m. The Wikipedia domain was unavailable across all languages. The error message generated after trying to access any page on Wikipedia did not indicate an ISP-level block; it simply displayed that the Internet connection to the server wasn’t working. The media repository of Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Commons, was accessible in the two states.
Screenshot of error message generated while accessing Wikipedia from Reliance Netconnect
Users who contacted the customer service helpline were told they would receive a resolution within 48 hours, but none arrived. Through the course of the 5-day blockade, Wikipedia was available on other Internet service providers (ISPs) in the two states. Users who attempted to ascertain if the block was indeed at the ISP-level by trying to access Wikipedia through free proxies could not do so; most free proxies too are blocked on Reliance Netconnect. However, a user managed to access Wikipedia through a new and comparatively unknown free proxy, indicating that the block was placed by the ISP.
Wikipedia users were miffed at the free online encyclopaedia being inexplicably unavailable. Srikanth Ramakrishnan, a prolific Wikipedia editor, told Tech2, “When I plugged in my Reliance Netconnect on the November 16, I was hoping to work on an article on Wikipedia. However, the page refused to load. Initially I thought it was a signal issue and moved around the house looking for a better signal. However, that didn't work. I filed a complaint with customer service and they assured me that they would resolve the issue within 48 hours. When asked why it was blocked, they admitted several sites were blocked due to security reasons. I tried several proxies, from the well known ones to some lesser known ones, but free proxies do not work on Reliance Netconnect. I was upset.”
On contacting Reliance Communications, we were told that it has not placed a blanket block on Wikipedia in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Last month, Airtel had blocked the Blogspot domain on fixed line and mobile Internet connections in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, and Chennai for five days. Airtel indicated that the unexpected block was the result of a technical glitch. The domain was also blocked by MTNL's Trump 3G service in Mumbai at around the same time. WordPress.com and Blogspot have been intermittently inaccessible from Vodafone 2G and 3G in Mumbai for a few months now, the earliest instance of which we noticed in August. On contacting Vodafone, it denied the existence of such as blockade.
Late in August, Tech2 had reported a blanket block placed on the free WordPress domain (WordPress.com) by Sify and the Tata Photon (CDMA broadband) service of Tata Teleservices. The move was apparently a result of government orders to block around 309 URLs carrying disruptive or inflammatory content. The all-inclusive block contravened the directives issued by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to ISPs between August 18 and 21 stated that only the URLs mentioned be blocked, not entire domains. The block was lifted after over a week. No reason was cited by Tata Teleservices for placing the block. At around the same time, Airtel had temporarily blocked Youtu.be URLs citing orders by the court “or” the DoT. It is clear from these instances that over the past few months, ISPs have haphazardly placed and removed blocks on Blogspot and WordPress.
If you are facing an ISP-level block, please let us know in the comments. Do mention your ISP, location, and type of connection (mobile or wired).
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