Internet, the worldwide web and India

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This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.



State-wise position, 2016

Access to Internet, state-wise; The Times of India, April 22, 2017

See graphic:

Access to Internet, state-wise

Cybersquatting/ domain name complaints

2015: India no.11

The Times of India, Apr 20 2016

Indian domain name plaints up 60% in 2015

Rupali Mukherjee

German luxury fashion firm Hugo Boss leads the list of global companies which filed the highest number of cybersquatting cases in 2015, with fashion emerging as the sector with the greatest activity in terms of domain name complaints, according to data from World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). While US heads the list of countries with the largest number of cases at 847, India notched a total of 59 domain name complainant cases in 2015, registering a growth of nearly 60%.

Domestic companies including Bharti Airtel, Voltas, Tata Sons, Wipro, Aircel and Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation are among those who filed cybersquatting complaints in 2015.Simply put, cybersquatting is the abusive registration of trademarks as domain names, where an individual or company attempts to usurp the reputation of the domain name of an established brand online.

“Whereas Indian trademark owners filed 30 cybersquatting cases with WIPO in the year 2010, they filed almost twice that number in 2015 (59). In India, as elsewhere, cybersquatting targets include famous brands as well as smaller enterprises in banking, automotive, telecommunications, energy , e-commerce, and a range of other sectors. By combating cybersquatting, these brand owners help Indian consumers to find authentic web content,“ Erik Wilbers, director at WIPO's Arbitration and Mediation Center, told.

It is important to prevent cybersquatting, particularly with the opening up of markets and growth of e-commerce, because it may lead to confusion and, in some cases, even fraud. WIPO director general Francis Gurry said in a statement, “As brand owners face the possibility of further abuse of their trademarks in domains -both old and new -they continue to rely on WIPO's cybersquatting dispute resolution procedures. By combating opportunistic domain name registration practices, WIPO's services help consumers to find authentic web content, and enhance the reliability of the domain name system.“ Hugo Boss was followed by tobacco firm Philip Morris, and consumer durables company AB Electrolux among the largest companies which filed cybersquatting complaints. The top three sectors that filed the largest number of cybersquatting complaints globally were fashion (10%), banking & finance (9%), and internet & IT (9%).Retail, biotech & pharmaceuticals, automobiles, and food were the other industries that filed these complaints.

The process to register a domain name is much simpler than registering a trademark, and also cheaper. This is cited as a reason for the huge growth in domain name disputes. Interestingly, in addition to the largest-used “legacy“ domain names like .com by companies, the newer ones .xyz, .club and .email are becoming popular too. The increase in new ge neric top-level domains (gTLD) registrations in WIPO's caseload is anticipated to continue. ICANN, the body that manages domain name system registration, has been rolling out new gTLDs (alternatives to `.com'). As these increase in number, so does the potential for cybersquatting, an industry expert says.

In an instance of alleged cybersquatting, companies file a case with WIPO, which appoints a panelist to assess whether the case is indeed cybersquatting or not. The Uni form Domain-Name-Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), proposed by WIPO in 1999, is accepted as an international standard for resolving domain name disputes outside the traditional courts, and is designed specifically to discourage and resolve the abusive registration of trademarks as domain names, commonly known as cybersquatting.

Under the UDRP , a complainant must demonstrate that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to its trademark, that the respondent does not have a right or legitimate interest in the domain name, and that the respondent registered and used the domain name in bad faith.

Censorship of Websites : India

Pranesh Prakash , Internet Rights & Wrongs “India Today” 1/9/2016

Over the last few weeks, there have been a number of cases of egregious censorship of websites in India. Many people started seeing notices that (incorrectly) gave an impression that they may end up in jail if they visited certain websites. However, these notices weren't an isolated phenomenon, nor one that is new. Worryingly, the higher judiciary has been drawn into these questionable moves to block websites as well.

Since 2011, numerous torrent search engines and communities have been blocked by Indian internet service providers (ISPs). Torrent search engines provide the same functionality for torrents that Google provides for websites. Are copyright infringing materials indexed and made searchable by Google? Yes. Do we shut down Google for this reason? No. However, that is precisely what private entertainment companies have done over the past five years in India. Companies hired by the producers of Tamil movies Singham and 3 managed to get video-sharing websites like Vimeo, Dailymotion and numerous torrent search engines blocked even before the movies released, without showing even a single case of copyright infringement existed on any of them. During the FIFA World Cup, Sony even managed to get Google Docs blocked. In some cases, these entertainment companies have abused 'John Doe' orders (generic orders that allow copyright enforcement against unnamed persons) and have asked ISPs to block websites. The ISPs, instead of ignoring such requests as instances of private censorship, have also complied. In other cases (like Sony's FIFA World Cup case), courts have ordered ISPs to block hundreds of websites without any copyright infringement proven against them. High court judges haven't even developed a coherent theory on whether or how Indian law allows them to block websites for alleged copyright infringement. Still they have gone ahead and blocked.

In 2012, hackers got into Reliance Communications servers and released a list of websites blocked by them. The list contained multiple links that sought to connect Satish Seth-a group MD in Reliance ADA Group-to the 2G scam: a clear case of secretive private censorship by RCom. Further, visiting some of the YouTube links which pertained to Satish Seth showed that they had been removed by YouTube due to dubious copyright infringement complaints filed by Reliance BIG Entertainment. Did the department of telecom, whose licences forbid ISPs from engaging in private censorship, take any action against RCom? No. Earlier this year, Tata Sky filed a complaint against YouTube in the Delhi High Court, noting that there were videos on it that taught people how to tweak their set-top boxes to get around the technological locks that Tata Sky had placed. The Delhi HC ordered YouTube "not to host content that violates any law for the time being in force", presuming that the videos in question did in fact violate Indian law. They cite two sections: Section 65A of the Copyright Act and Section 66 of the Information Technology Act. The first explicitly allows a user to break technological locks of the kind that Tata Sky has placed for dozens of reasons (and allows a person to teach others how to engage in such breaking), whereas the second requires finding of "dishonesty" or "fraud" along with "damage to a computer system, etc", and an intention to violate the law-none of which were found. The court effectively blocked videos on YouTube without any finding of illegality, thus once again siding with censorial corporations.

In 2013, Indore-based lawyer Kamlesh Vaswani filed a PIL in the Supreme Court calling for the government to undertake proactive blocking of all online pornography. Normally, a PIL is only admittable under Article 32 of the Constitution, on the basis of a violation of a fundamental right (which are listed in Part III of our Constitution). Vaswani's petition-which I have had the misfortune of having read carefully-does not at any point complain that the state is violating a fundamental right by not blocking pornography. Yet the petition wants to curb the fundamental right to freedom of expression, since the government is by no means in a position to determine what constitutes illegal pornography and what doesn't.

The larger problem extends to the now-discredited censor board (headed by the notorious Pahlaj Nihalani), as also the self-censorship practised on TV by the private Indian Broadcasters Federation (which even bleeps out words and phrases like 'Jesus', 'period', 'breast cancer' and 'beef'). 'Swachh Bharat' should not mean sanitising all media to be unobjectionable to the person with the lowest outrage threshold. So who will file a PIL against excessive censorship? F

Pranesh Prakash is a Policy Director at the Centre for Internet and Society

Digital divide


Internet users

The Times of India Jan 08 2015

India saw its first internet connection on August 15, 1995 when Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited launched the country's first internet services. The government opened up the sector for private operators in 1998. New regulations in telecom policy opened up internet telephony in 2002. Despite these measures, India's internet prevalence is far lower than in the advanced or other BRICS economies. Given the literacy levels and with average revenues per user in many cases being comparable to the cost of the cheapest internet packages offered, this is hardly surprising.

2017/ digital divide, state-wise

Vikas Pathak and Shiv Sahay Singh, Report highlights India’s digital divide, January 19, 2018: The Hindu

Rural Kerala frontrunner in Internet access, rural Bengal at the bottom of the heap

The southern State of Kerala seems far ahead of all Indian States in breaching the digital divide, if the data generated by Pratham’s Annual Status of Education Report, 2017, for its sample district of Ernakulam are to be believed.

And the eastern State of West Bengal seems right at the bottom in terms of the rural youth’s access to the Internet, computers and mobiles, as per data generated from its South 24 Parganas district.

Even as the government looks at ushering in a Digital India, ASER 2017 offers a snapshot into how different States are faring in breaching the digital divide, by focusing on rural youth in the 14-18 age group in 28 rural districts across 24 States in India.

A pointer

The patterns may not hold true or all districts in particular States, but may be a pointer to the south’s lead and the eastern States’ backwardness in rural digital access.

Significantly, 69.8% of the rural youth surveyed in Kerala’s Ernakulam district had used the Internet in the week before the survey. Similarly, 92% had used mobile phones and 60% had used computers in the week leading to the survey. It was also the only district among those surveyed across India where a third of the rural youth had used an ATM.

The surveyed districts of Amritsar and Bhatinda and Maharashtra’s Satara and Ahmednagar also showed decent digital access, though well below Kerala.

West Bengal lay at the other end of the spectrum, faring worst in breaching the digital divide.

Just 17.1% of the rural youth between 14 and 18 in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district had used the Internet in the week leading to the survey. Just 21.2% had used a computer and 65.5% had used a mobile phone.

Never used

In Kerala’s Ernakulam, just 10.5% of the surveyed rural youth had never used the Internet and 0.4% had never used a mobile phone.

The situation was much worse in eastern States, however.

While nationally, 63.7% of the rural youth surveyed had never used the Internet, the figures were much higher in districts in West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and Assam.

In West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district 74.4% rural youth in the age group of 14 to 18 years had never had access to Internet while in Odisha’s Khordha district, the number was 65.8%. In Jharkhand’s Purbi Singhbhum the figure stood at 68.8% and in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district 67.5%. In Assam’s Kamrup district the number was 64.1%.

Digital Quality of Life Index


August 18, 2020: The Hindu

But it makes it into the top 10 in terms of affordability, says global survey

India ranks among the lowest in the world in terms of Internet quality, according to a global research released by online privacy solutions provider SurfShark. As per the “Digital Quality of Life Index 2020”, which researches on the quality of a digital wellbeing in 85 countries (81% of the global population), in terms of e-infrastructure, India occupies 79th place, ranking below countries including Guatemala and Sri Lanka.

India makes it into the top 10 in terms of Internet affordability. With a ranking of nine, it outperforms countries such as the U.K., the U.S. and China. Additionally, when it comes to e-government, India occupies the 15th place globally, just below countries like New Zealand and Italy. “However, India’s Internet quality is one of the lowest across 85 countries analysed in the research. In position 78, India is at the bottom of the pillar with unstable and slow mobile Internet dragging it down in the overall Internet quality index,” SurfShark said.

This year’s Digital Quality of Life Index found that seven of the 10 countries with the highest digital quality of life are in Europe, with Denmark leading among 85 countries. It said Canada stands out as a country with the highest digital quality of life in the Americas, while Japan takes the leading position in Asia. Among the countries in Africa, people in South Africa enjoy the highest quality of digital lives whereas New Zealand leads in Oceania, outperforming Australia in various digital areas.

Disruption of the Internet

2019: longest in world

Chandrima Banerjee, Internet disruption in India in 2019 longest in world: FB report, May 14, 2020: The Times of India

Thirty-six weeks, 6 days and 9 hours. That’s how long access to internet was disrupted in India in the latter half of 2019 — the longest in the world. In that time, India made 26,698 requests seeking information from 39,664 Facebook accounts, the second highest after the US, the Facebook Community Standards Enforcement Report said. It is the latest bi-annual report on policy within the company and government requests it responds to, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an international press call TOI was part of. And all these have been compounded and magnified by Covid-19.

The duration of disruption in India is, for the first time, the highest in the world. The number of disruptions in India, at 40 (out of 45 in the world), remains the highest, as it has in the past four years. UP displaced J&K with the most disruptions — 17. J&K has faced the longest disruptionworld over.

India’s number of content restriction requests has gone down from 1,250 in the first half of 2019 to 841 in its latter half .


2018: 4 Indian cities in world top 10

RACHEL CHITRA & APARNA DESIKAN, May 23, 2019: The Times of India

Four Indian cities were among the world’s top 10 cities for E-dating, presumably as in 2018
From: RACHEL CHITRA & APARNA DESIKAN, May 23, 2019: The Times of India

Dating Indians has never been more popular. Four Indian cities feature in the top 10 most frequented international destinations on Tinder Passport, the dating app’s paid service that allows users to find dates in overseas locations (see graphic).

Singletons who use Tinder Passport say it’s exciting, adventurous and romantic to fall in love with someone many thousands of miles away, from an entirely different country, culture and nationality.

Indonesian national Erny Bucharest (36), who currently lives in Romania, met Raj (35) using Tinder Passport. The two decided to holiday together in Kuala Lumpur to get to know each other better, fell in love and plan to marry next year in Bali. Peru resident Maria Isabel Chavez Revollar (38) wanted to make a few Indian friends for travel and shopping advice before travelling to the country. She tells us her visits to Bengaluru, Delhi and Jaipur in 2017 was enhanced so much because of the friends she made via Tinder.

Sriram Vaidyanathan, who worked as an investment banker in New York, started “swiping right” in Bengaluru, “met a wonderful person, married her and relocated to India”. In Tinder, swiping right on someone’s profile means you like that person and are open to meeting him/her.

While Tinder’s main app is free, it shows only people in the user’s city. On the other hand, Tinder Passport is an exclusive feature available only to Tinder Plus subscribers that let’s one change location and connect with people anywhere around the world. One can search by city or drop a pin on the world map to start swiping.

Indians looking to travel within India also use the feature to find a familiar, friendly face to explore cities with. Mumbaibased Aniket Chitnawis, a firsttime user of the passport feature, says he is currently looking for dates in Pondicherry. “I’m just want to explore the city with a new person. Whether it leads to a friendship, date, etc, depends on the chemistry,” he says. Sahiba Chugh of Delhi says that before any trip overseas, she finds a match that can be a companion for her stay there. She also guides NRI men coming to India.


User base in 2020

Online video users as % of Internet users in 2020
From: John Sarkar, Oct 6, 2021: The Times of India

See graphic:

Online video users as % of Internet users in 2020

Economics: The internet economy

2015-16: Apps added Rs 1.4 lakh crore to GDP

MAY CONTRIBUTE Rs 18L CR BY 2020 - Apps added Rs 1.4L crore to India's GDP in '15-16: Study|Jul 15 2017: The Times of India (Delhi)

Internet apps added Rs 1.4 lakh crore to India's GDP in 2015-16, says a study released on Friday . It expects the figure to grow to Rs 18 lakh crore by 2020. Union minister of communications Manoj Sinha, who released the study on Friday , said since data is going to drive the industry more than voice, the ministry has also initiated a move to relook at the current Telecom Policy through public consultation.

The study , conducted by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (Icrier) and the Broadband India Forum, finds that nearly half of the contribution of the internet to the economy would be due to apps.

“The internet economy could contribute up to $537.4 billion to India's GDP in 2020, of which a minimum of $270.9 billion could be attributed to apps,“ says the study , using various economic analyses and logical regression models to isolate and calculate the impact of apps on the Indian economy . It has evaluated this impact across 19 telecom circles (India has 22) which are contiguous with state boundaries. The study is called “Estimating the value of new generation internet bases applications in India.“

“Since not all Internet usage is app based, we moderate the estimate using assumptions on contribution of apps to the Internet economy in India,“ says the study. Apps or applications, are mostly used on smartphones, to perform specialized tasks. The study measures internet usage on the basis of the “virtual networking index“ forecasts of IT company Cisco.

“From a CISCO estimate, India's Internet traffic from non-PC devices was 28% of total Internet traffic in 2015. According to experts, 70% of mobile or non-PC traffic could be attributable to apps implying that apps contributed a minimum of $20.4 billion to India's economy in the year 2015-16,“ says the study , adding that this estimate is based only on internet-based apps. Including offline apps here can swing the figure higher.

The Icrier forecasts are based on the assumption that today's “internet economy“ will remain the same in 2020.Newer apps, or new technology can skew the numbers. “In any case,“ says the study , “we can be sure that the Internet economy will magnify to at least 15% by 2020, with apps contributing at a minimum half of the value.“

How Indians use the Internet


June 3, 2018: The Times of India

Over 500 million Indians were online in 2017, and the annual growth in India’s online users is about four times the global rate of 3%. That’s a huge untapped pool of e-shoppers

i) How Indians used the Internet;
ii) Growth of e-commerce
From: June 3, 2018: The Times of India

See graphics:

i) How Indians used the Internet;
ii) Growth of e-commerce

2008: India’s online population

2017: mobiles, not Wi-Fi

John Sarkar, August 10, 2018: The Times of India

Usage of the Internet in India and major countries, presumably as in 2017: mobiles vs. Wi-Fi
From: John Sarkar, August 10, 2018: The Times of India

Indians have emerged as one of the most voracious users of data globally and they largely use smartphones to access the internet, through mobile networks rather than Wi-Fi. This is a unique trend since globally internet users tap Wi-Fi to connect to the world wide web. The use of smartphones in India is likely to change the internet economy and open up opportunities worth $50 billion in threefive years, a study showed.

On an average, India has added more than 40 million internet users every year in last five years and currently boasts of having the second-highest number of active internet users globally after China. The study suggests that India lags China and Brazil in internet penetration (28% penetration compared with 64% in Brazil and 53% in China), but the country’s user growth has been the highest.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. India is expected to add more than 500 million new internet users and online shoppers to its current user base of 390 million, according to a study by Bain & Company in partnership with Google and Omidyar Network.

“This could unlock around $50 billion in potential online commerce in the next 3-5 years,” said Joydeep Bhattacharya, partner at Bain & Company. E-commerce retail sales in India were pegged at $20 billion in 2017, which is 2% of overall retail sales of the country.

“The internet over time has been perceived as a means of social communication and there are many sections of men and women who believe this could be a bad influence on women and can even lead to broken marriages,” said Roopa Kudva, partner & MD, India, at Omidyar Network India Advisors.

Internet providers


Pankaj Doval, Cheaper tariffs make Jio India’s No. 1 net provider, August 29, 2018: The Times of India

Buoyed by ‘4Gonly’ services and dirt-cheap data tariffs, Reliance Jio has cornered the lion’s share when it comes to taking Indians online, sailing ahead of old-timers such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and BSNL.

According to numbers accessed from telecom regulator Trai, Jio’s share in the country’s total internet base of 494 million stood at 37.7% at the end of March 2018 on a total subscriber base of 186.5 million.

Jio had started operations in September 2016.

Airtel, which started services in the late nineties, ended with a share of 23.5% at end of March 2018, with an internet subscriber base of 116 million. The company is saddled with a large base of 2G subscribers, many of whom use non-internet feature phones, which are primarily used for voice.

Vodafone and Idea Cellular, which are set to close their ambitious merger, are behind Jio even after combining their internet market shares. Vodafone has a share of 15.4% (at 76 million users), while Idea has 9.5% (47 million).

State-owned BSNL, which has operations everywhere in the country except in Delhi and Mumbai (where MTNL operates), had a share of 6.4% and is the fifth-largest internet provider with 31.4 million users.

Apart from cheaper tariffs and a network that offers 4G internet as a standard, Jio also gained from bundling of low-cost handsets (and later even premium ones) from the day it began services. A large number of dual-SIM handsets and tendency of Indians to go online largely through mobile phones also benefited the new-entrant. A large number of users had used Jio as a second SIM option to take benefit of the company’s cheap internet plans.

Mobile Internet

Apps used the most in 2017

Sep 14 2017: The Times of India

See graphic:

Most popular app categories in India in 2015; Number of mobile phone users in India; Distribution of online shoppers in India by gender, 2015

Most popular app categories in India in 2015;
Number of mobile phone users in India;
Distribution of online shoppers in India by gender, 2015; Sep 14 2017: The Times of India

Indians are known to be hands-on shoppers, the ones that like to touch and assess a product and haggle its price before making a purchase. The hunt for bargains has now moved to the internet and Indians are lapping it up, with shopping apps taking the largest share of downloads in 2015. Add to that the growing base of smartphone users in India and it's easy to see why up is where mobile commerce is headed in India

Net freedom

2014: Govt blocked 2,341 URLs, a 73% rise

The Times of India

URLs, blocked and unblocked (year-wise): 2012-14; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India

Apr 4, 2015

Govt blocked 2,341 URLs in '14, 73% more than '13

The government issued orders to block 2,341 URLs in 2014, the official response to an RTI application has shown, up 73% from the number blocked in 2013. The RTI was filed by Delhi-based nonprofit legal services organisation Software Freedom Law Center India ( last month with the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), which falls under the ministry of communications and IT.

The number of orders blocking URLs (Uniform Resource Locators), the address of data available on the world wide web, stood at 1,341 in 2013. The application sought answers on blocking orders issued pursuant to court orders, requests from government departments, and at the suggestion of private parties. The DeitY response says that “barring a few numbers, all URLs were blocked on the orders of the court.“ “Further, as per the provisions of Rule 16 of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguard for locking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009, notified under section 69 A of the Information Technology Act 2000, the requests and complaints received and ac tions taken thereof are confidential,“ the reply adds., which uploaded the RTI and the reply on its website, has said in an accompanying blog that the government needs to review its stance on confidentiality, particularly in the light of the apex court's observations while striking down Section 66 A of the IT Act. It says that the SC “invited attention to several safeguards incorporated into Section 69A -one amongst them being that reasons behind blocking orders are to be recorded in writing in the orders... so that they may be challenged by means of writ petitions...“

2016-17: India was ‘partly free’

Net freedom index, in 2016-17 India was ‘partly free’
From: November 19, 2017: The Times of India

See graphic:

Net freedom index, in 2016-17 India was ‘partly free’

Net neutrality

Government approves principles of net neutrality

Pankaj Doval, Web stays equal for all as net neutrality gets Centre’s nod, July 12, 2018: The Times of India

Exceptions For Services Like Telemedicine

In a decision that will ensure that netizens continue to have free and fair access to the internet, the government on Wednesday approved the principles of net neutrality in India.

“Any deviations and violations of the rules of net neutrality – which come into effect almost immediately – will be met with stiff penalties,” telecom secretary Aruna Sundarajan told TOI.

Under net neutrality, online access is unrestricted and non-discriminatory. The only exceptions are new and emerging services such as autonomous driving, telemedicine or remote-diagnostic services, which may require prioritised internet lanes and faster-than-normal speeds. A committee will look into the possible exceptions for “critical services” which will also be defined keeping in view the basic tenets of net neutrality. ‘Net neutrality rules will help culture of startups, innovation’

Sundararajan said the inter-ministerial telecom commission, which met on Wednesday, gave the goahead to net neutrality in the country.

Net neutrality has become a contentious issue across the world as social media giants and mobile and internet providers seek greater control on delivery of content and services to customers. It is feared that handing out greater and unchecked control to them will lead to monopolies and situations of paid prioritisation, both of which will stifle the start-up culture and new innovations.

The US, the world’s biggest internet economy, is yet to take a clear stand on the matter. In May, the US Senate voted in favour of keeping open-internet rules as it attempts to overturn regulator Federal Communications Commission’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules, something seen as difficult in view of challenges at the House of Representatives or the White House.

As per the net neutrality rules in India, mobile operators, internet providers and social-media and internet companies cannot engage in, or seek, preferential treatment as there will now be prohibition on any kind of interference in the treatment of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting differential speeds or treatment to any content.

Moreover, any efforts to create zero-rated platforms have now been blocked. Zerorated platforms, which had earlier been tried (by companies such as Airtel and Facebook) but barred, offer only a certain category of services and websites as free, thus creating paid layers and stifling competition and innovation.

The government’s decision is being seen as progressive as it will not allow any mobile operator, internet service provider or online/ social media giant to create monopolies on the internet by getting specialized treatment by paying for it. The rules of equal access will be maintained and no company can buy special treatment for itself or its services.

Industry analysts said that net neutrality rules will help the culture of startups and innovation as access to the internet and delivery of services will be the same for everyone. “Smaller companies will have the opportunity to grow unhindered with no fear of bigger rivals stifling their opportunities by paying for specialized treatment,” a government official said.

Sundararajan said that net neutrality will come into force through a notification by the telecom ministry, and companies will need to adhere to its principles. Changes to the licensing norms for companies will be made to factor in the new-age rules.

The telecom secretary, who also heads the telecom commission, also said that internet traffic management by mobile companies will be monitored in the new regime. “The telecom department will decide on traffic management rules, and will seek recommendations from sector regulator Trai on the same.”

The government has also decided for the formation of a multi-stakeholder body for the monitoring and enforcement of net neutrality. “Apart from government officials, this will have representatives from telecom companies, internet service providers and those engaged in internet-of-things platforms,” Sundararajan said.

The grounds for net neutrality and free and fair internet was laid by Trai which in November last year recommended that internet access in India should remain non-discriminatory with no restrictions in the delivery of content through practices such as throttling of speed, blocking, paid prioritisation or preferential treatment.

Trai chairman R S Sharma has also advocated for the introduction of net neutrality principles in India. “The overarching goal for us has been that internet must remain an open platform, unhindered by any entity, so that users and customers have a choice to access content of their liking… Nobody owns the internet and thus it should be available to everyone. We seek openness and integrity of the internet.”

As the internet economy gains in size and influence across the world, there have been increasing concerns with relation to the potential for discriminatory treatment of internet traffic by the entities that control access to the internet. Also, some of the internet giants may buy their way through to a preferential environment at the cost of other companies and startups.

The law, court judgements

1995-2020: rights and accountability

Dhananjay Mahapatra, January 13, 2020: The Times of India

Internet services debuted in India on August 15, 1995, through Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited. It was a weird thing at the time as one had barely became familiar with the keyboard commands needed to operate a computer. Unfamiliar with the nature of the beast, offices had very few computers with internet connection and access to these were strictly monitored. The beast soon became beneficial and popular. In November 1998, the government allowed private players to provide internet services.

In two decades, internet became the busiest medium for dissemination of views, news and everything under the sun. The Supreme Court's nine-judge bench judgment in K S Puttaswamy case, which in August 2017 declared right to privacy to be part of right to life, paid handsome tributes to the internet and how it had become intrinsic to basic daily activities.

"Internet has become all pervasive as individuals spend more and more time online each day of their lives. Individuals connect with others and use the internet as means of communication. Internet is used to carry on business and to buy goods and services. Individuals browse the web in search of information, to send emails, use instant messaging services and to download movies," Justice D Y Chandrachud had said, while writing the main judgment in the privacy case.

"Online purchases have become an efficient substitute for the daily visit to the neighbouring store. Online banking has redefined relationships between bankers and customers. Online trading has created a new platform for the market in securities. Online music has refashioned the radio. Online books have opened up a new universe for the bibliophile. Th old-fashioned travel agent has been rendered redundant by web portals which provide everything from restaurants to resthouses, airline tickets to art galleries, museum tickets to music shows. These are but a few of the reasons people access the internet each day of their lives," he had said.

While dwelling on the benefits of internet, the SC had noted concerns about private players monitoring an individual's choices and preferences exercised online daily to create meta data that became the proverbial gold mine of personal information, which business houses were ready to buy at a premium for commercial exploitation.

The SC acknowledged how difficult it was to get out of the web of internet. "The impact of the digital age results in information on the internet being permanent. Humans forget, but the internet does not forget and does not let humans forget. Any endeavour to remove information from the internet does not result in its absolute obliteration. The footprints remain. It is, thus, said that in the digital world, preservation is the norm and forgetting a struggle," the bench said.

So, when individuals are so direly dependent on the internet, its suspension obviously has a disrupting effect. If something like internet has become fundamental to daily activities of individuals, should access to internet, like access to water, be treated as a fundamental right? The SC dealt with this issue in its judgment last week while testing the validity of the decision to shut down internet in J&K after August 5, when the state was stripped of its special status and divided into two Union Territories.

Writing the judgment for a three-judge bench, Justice N V Ramana distinguished between internet as a tool and freedom of expression through the medium of internet. The SC did not examine whether access to internet is a fundamental right as the issue was not raised by petitioners.

However, it held that "freedom of speech and expression through the medium of internet is an integral part of Article 19(1)(a)", under which the Constitution treats it as a fundamental right.

Taking a cue from the Puttaswamy case, the Justice Ramana-led bench rightly said since internet has become a important tool for trade and commerce, "freedom of trade and commerce through the medium of internet is also constitutionally protected under Article 19(1)(g)".

The verdict made netizens erupt in joy. Well, the SC's ruling that freedom of speech and trade and commerce through the medium of internet is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) and (g) of the Constitution automatically circumscribes these rights by the restrictions prescribed under Article 19(2).

Before this judgment, fastening accountability on those making comments on social media fell in the grey area, except probably in defamation cases as we saw many proceedings being initiated against individuals who heaped charges against some during the 'Me Too' movement.

With the SC formalising right to expression through internet as a fundamental right, it gave the government and authorities a handle to impose restrictions on use of internet or suspend internet in a particular area if they apprehended that it was needed to protect sovereignty, integrity and security of the country; not to harm friendly relations with foreign countries; protect public order, decency, morality and dignity of courts, stop defamation or incitement to an offence.

An important change was brought about by the SC by ruling that orders suspending or restricting internet services must be based on doctrine of proportionality and could be done only as a last resort after examining all other options. Moreover, all orders suspending internet services have to be notified and reviewed periodically by the authorities. Additionally, these orders were made subject to judicial scrutiny.

What emerges from the SC judgment is - those exercising free speech on social media would be held accountable for their words if these fell foul any of the restrictions enumerated in Article 19(2) of the Constitution. "Your right ends where my nose (or belly) begins," is an age-old adage which social media users must keep in mind before chirping in writing.


2012- May 2017

`20 internet shutdowns in India in 2017', June 17, 2017: The Times of India

India has seen 20 instances of internet shutdowns in 2017, according to legal services organisation Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC). In June itself, there were temporary shutdowns in parts of Madhya Pradesh, and in Nashik, Maharashtra after farmer protests escalated. Reacting to the spate of shutdowns, international watchdog body Human Rights Watch on Friday called for Indian authorities to “cease arbitrary restrictions of the country's internet and telecommunications networks.“

SFLC has been tracking Internet shutdowns in India with their website It recorded 31 instances of internet shutdowns in the country in 2016. Between 2012 and now, it has recorded 79 internet shutdowns in India of varying types and duration.

“Of the 73 shutdowns recorded since 2012, 37 were preventive in nature i.e. imposed in anticipation of a law and order problem, while 36 instances were reactive in nature i.e. imposed in response to an ongoing law and order problem,“ says an analysis on 27 of these 73 shutdowns, it says, lasted for less than a day.

“Authorities' concerns over the misuse of the internet and social media should not be the default option to prevent social unrest,“ said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director, Human Rights Watch.

2012-18, state-wise

U Sudhakarreddy, India tops world with most Net shutdowns in 2018, November 2, 2018: The Times of India

2012-18: Net shutdowns in India
State-wise cases of Net shutdown
From: U Sudhakarreddy, India tops world with most Net shutdowns in 2018, November 2, 2018: The Times of India

‘Govt Wants To Prevent Riots, Hate Crimes’

India topped the world with the highest number of internet shutdowns by government authorities with reportedly 121 instances to date in 2018, revealed data compiled by Delhi-based Software Freedom Law Centre’s ‘internetshutdowntracker’.

Taken with ‘Freedom on The Net 2018’, also released on Thursday, where India scored 43 — down two places from its score of 41 last year — the data shows how government controls have impacted freedom on the internet. India has slipped in the ‘partially free’ category. Higher the score, lesser the freedom on the Net. So, 0 is full freedom, while 100 is no freedom.

In India, governments have shut down the internet purportedly to prevent riots, incidents of hate crime, even to prevent cheating in exams. Citing instances of shutdowns, the report states: “In Tamil Nadu, a video showing a child being kidnapped went viral on WhatsApp with a warning of child kidnappers on the prowl. The video is originally an announcement against child kidnapping from Pakistan,” it stated.

The report observed that while the Supreme Court judgment making privacy a fundamental right in August 2017 was a victory for internet freedom, it has been “plagued by security breaches”. The report cited researchers who exposed security lapses in Aaadhar, noting that Indian authorities are “poor custodians of citizen’s information”.

2012-18: Economic impact on internet shutdowns

Jan 8, 2019 Times of India

Internet shutdowns, 2012-19, year-wise
From: Jan 8, 2019 Times of India
Internet shutdowns by state and economic impact, 2012- 17
From: Jan 8, 2019 Times of India

India the global leader in internet shutdown

For the 95th time this year, India saw an internet shutdown, this time in parts of Delhi and UP following mass demonstrations against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. India sees the most internet shutdowns in the world, and at a considerable economic cost. Since 2012, the government has suspended internet services 367 times and in 2018 alone, 67% of the world’s internet shutdowns were in India.

Only govt can shut down the net

An internet shutdown is always government-imposed — internet service providers serving the locality in question are ordered by an agency of the government to cut off internet services to that area. An internet shutdown always imposes a blanket ban on internet access and not a selective ban, where access to particular content/services is disabled leaving access to other content/ services unaffected .

Over 16,000 hours lost to shutdowns between 2012 and 2017

Between January 2012 and January 2019, 60 shutdowns lasted less than 24 hours, 55 between 24 hours and 72 hours, and 39 for over 72 hours. In the same six-year period, 160 shutdowns were imposed as preventative measures in anticipation of law and order breakdowns and 118 shutdowns were in response to ongoing law and order breakdowns.

J&K sees most shutdowns, economic impact worst in Gujarat

According to a study by ICRIER, between 2012-17, India lost an average of $186,332 (Rs 1.32 crore) per hour as economic losses due to internet shutdowns — amounting to over $3 billion (over Rs 21,600 crore). Here’s a statewise breakup.

According to a latest report released on January 7 by VPN10 titled 'The Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns in 2019', India imposed internet restrictions more than any other country with over 100 shutdowns in 2019. Most of these shutdowns were highly targeted at the level of blacking out cities, districts, instead of large region-wise shutdown. The report states that the economic impact of these blackouts is likely to higher than $1.3 billion.

How is an internet ban is applied in India

The bulk of internet shutdowns in India between January 2012 and April 2018 were ordered under Section 144, CrPC, which deals with prohibitory orders to maintain law and order. Before rules were notified in 2017, laying down the procedure for ordering an internet ban, there was no review mechanism under other provisions used to issue such bans. Rules, notified under Section 7 of The Telegraph Act, 1855, in 2017, lay down the procedure to suspend telecom/internet services for public emergency or public safety. Called the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules, here is how it works:

The Union or state home secretary, 'the competent authority' in such cases, order internet ban. An officer, not lower than the superintendent of police then asks service providers to suspend services. The order has to be then sent within the next working day to the central or state govt review committee, which has to review it within 5 working days. In case of an emergency situation, the joint secretaries authorised by the Union or state home secretaries can order an internet ban, but it is subject to confirmation within 24 hours by the Union or state home secretary.

There is a review mechanism, but...

The review committee envisaged under the rules is made up entirely of members of the executive (at Union level it comprises the cabinet secretary, secretaries of legal affairs and department of telecommunication) Also, the new rules have no provision for notification of shutdowns in press or official gazettes. Since service providers do not always announce a shutdown, people in affected areas are often caught unaware about such bans.

Longest internet shutdowns

Jammu & Kashmir: August 4, 2019 - till date, 136 days and counting

Jammu & Kashmir: July 8, 2016 - November 19, 2016, 133 days

Darjeeling, West Bengal: June 18, 2017 - September 25, 2017, 100 days

Data source: ICRIER, Software Freedom Law Center,


Anam Ajmal, January 6, 2021: The Times of India

Total economic cost of major internet shutdowns in 2020, by country (in $ mm)
From: January 8, 2021: The Times of India

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Total economic cost of major internet shutdowns in 2020, by country (in $ mm)

Internet shutdowns cost India an estimated 2.8 billion dollars (about Rs 204 billion) in 2020, with 8,927 hours of disruption or targeted blackouts, according to a report by a UK-based organisation, Top 10 VPN. The report assessed the global internet shutdown cost to be around $4 billion, with India accounting for nearly 70% of the total losses.

Top 10 VPN, founded by technologist Antonio Argiolas, is a VPN review site that focuses on privacy and security. It used the Cost of Shutdown Tool (COST) to arrive at the economic impact of global shutdowns. COST uses indicators from the World Bank, International Telecommunications Union, Eurostat and U.S. Census to arrive at the impact of internet shutdowns.

The 2020 report stated that 93 major shutdowns took place in 21 countries. The total duration of major disruptions was 27,165 hours, up 49% from 2019.

According to the Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns 2020 report, India reported 75 cases of shutdowns, which impacted over 10.3 million internet users. The shutdown also impeded on the right to peaceful assembly & freedom of press, the report stated. In 2019, researchers had estimated a total loss of $1.3 billion for India, out of $8 billion global cost.

“The majority of these short blackouts were highlytargeted, affecting groups of villages or individual city districts and so were not included in this report, which focuses on larger regionwide shutdowns. The true economic cost is therefore likely to be even higher than $2.8BN,” the report stated.

India was closely followed by Myanmar with 8,808 hours of internet shutdown and Chad with 4,608 hours of shutdown.

“’s important to make clear that internet shutdowns are themselves a violation of international human rights law. That’s because they directly infringe upon citizens’ freedom of expression, right to information, and rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association,” read the report.

Economic loss due to the shutdowns

Sindhu Hariharan, January 10, 2020: The Times of India

The Economic loss due to Internet shutdowns in Iraq, Sudan and India, in 2019.
From: Sindhu Hariharan, January 10, 2020: The Times of India

CHENNAI: Internet shutdowns in India are not just disruptions in routine and individual freedom, but are also having an economic impact on the country. Around 4,196 hours of internet blackouts in India cost the economy close to $1.3 billion in 2019, finds a study by UK-based tech research firm Top10Vpn.

India was the third worst-hit economy worldwide after crisis-hit Iraq and Sudan thanks to state-imposed shut downs across Jammu & Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, UP and other regions, shows the report. An average of 8.4 million internet users were impacted across the multiple incidents, it said.

The economic impact is likely to be higher, the study adds, given that the study only assessed large region-wide blackouts and India's smaller and more localised shutdowns weren't included.

"There were more internet shutdowns in 2019 than ever before," Samuel Woodhams and Simon Migliano, authors of the report by Top10Vpn told TOI in an email. "As for India, the frequency of disruptions still far surpasses any other country we analysed and, unless swift action is taken to reduce the number and duration of disruptions, the economic impact is likely to continue to rise," they added.

The vast majority of internet shutdowns in India in 2019 were highly localised and short-lived, but the costliest disruption occurred in Kashmir, where the shutdown remains ongoing.

"The shutdown in Kashmir is one of the longest internet shutdowns to have ever occurred and cost the Indian economy nearly $1.1 billion in 2019," Woodhams and Migliano said. It has hurt the economy, impacted local healthcare services, freedom of the press and education in the region.

The clampdown of internet services in the northeast in relation to the Citizenship Amendment Act resulted in around $102 million of economic impact, and the restrictions in Uttar Pradesh led to a $63 million hit.


Anam Ajmal, March 4, 2021: The Times of India

70% of global internet shutdowns in 2020 were in India: Report

New Delhi: Nearly 70% of cases of internet shutdowns globally happened in India in 2020, according to a new report by Access Now, a global non-profit that works on digital rights and online freedom. Out of the 155 instances of internet disruptions, 109 were recorded in India, followed by Yemen with six instances.

The report, “Shattered Dreams and Lost Opportunities,” listed at least 29 countries which intentionally shut down or slowed the internet during 2020 despite “increased demand due to the coronavirus”.

“India imposed the lion’s share of internet shutdowns in 2020, topping the global shame list — just as it did in 2018 and 2019,” the report stated, while also mentioning the continuous disruption in Jammu and Kashmir, which did not have access to 4G internet services throughout 2020.

The report criticised the opaque manner in which these shutdown orders were passed and then implemented, and asked for more transparency while going forward. According to Access Now, The most common rationale for a shutdown in India during the year was “precautionary measure”, followed by threat to national security, to curtail the spread of misinformation, among others, it said.

“However, governments rarely mean what they say when it comes to internet shutdowns. When officials say they are using shutdowns to fight “fake news” or hate speech, it can mask an attempt to hide or distort information around political instability, obscure police clashes or targeted attacks, that take place during communal violence, or stop people from organising protests,” it added.

China was categorised as ‘not free’ with a score of 9 out of 100, a further drop of two points from 2019, when it had 11 points.



In 2017 India was the world’s 4th biggest source of spam
From: August 2, 2018: The Times of India

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In 2017 India was the world’s 4th biggest source of spam

Speed (download)


India and the world: Speed of internet connections, 2015; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India

See graphic:

'India and the world: Speed of internet connections, 2015

2017: India 119th among 189 countries

Fastest and slowest countries to download movies
From The Times of India, October 6, 2017

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Fastest and slowest countries to download movies

2018: 4G speed in India slowest in world

Pankaj Doval, 4G speed in India slowest in world, February 22, 2018: The Times of India

Download speed of 4G in India, Pakistan and other countries- 2018
From: Pankaj Doval, 4G speed in India slowest in world, February 22, 2018: The Times of India

Lags Pakistan, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Tunisia

India may be going digital, but high-speed internet on mobile phones still remains a challenge, even on 4G. Despite telecom companies announcing massive rollout of 4G services, the average network speed in India remains the slowest across countries having substantial telecom networks, lagging even Pakistan, Algeria, Kazakhstan and Tunisia.

According to a list prepared by mobile analytics company OpenSignal, 4G download speed in India is the slowest across 88 countries spanning six continents. This is despite the fact that 4G has been expanding at a rapid pace across the country, and networks are being upgraded from slower 2G services.

On an average, the 4G speed in India has been measured at 6 mbps (actual experience could be much lower), whereas subscribers in neighbouring Pakistan enjoy internet at a more than double speed of 14 mbps. Algeria is ranked second-last at 9 mbps.

According to OpenSignal, subscribers in Singapore get the fastest downloads on 4G at 44 mbps, followed by the Netherlands at 42 mbps. In Norway, the 4G download speed is 41 mbps, while South Korea gets 40 mbps. OpenSignal analysed more than 5,000 crore measurements (collected between October 1 and December 29 of 2017) of speed from over 38 lakh smartphone and tablet users across six continents.

Giving out reasons for a slower network speed in India despite a wider 4G reach, the study blamed capacity constraints on network. Though 4G is available for around 86% of the time people access the internet, “4G networks lack the capacity to deliver connection speed much faster than 3G”, it said.

The telecom industry in India is staring at a financial nightmare, with most of the companies either deep in the red or just managing to stay profitable. The onslaught of fierce competition from 4Gonly Reliance Jio saw Vodafone and Idea Cellular slip into losses, while Airtel saw profits shrink massively.

Companies that provide network infrastructure to mobile companies said in private that most of the operators are slow in making fresh investments for augmenting capacities. “The sector is in a financial mess. We have seen slippage in investments, which are drying up due to losses,” one of the top infrastructure providers said, requesting anonymity.

While Jio has launched pan-India 4G services, others were literally forced to follow suit. Airtel is also giving 4G on a pan-India basis, while Idea Cellular covers the country, except Delhi and Kolkata. Vodafone is currently giving the service in 17 circles.

Subscribers complain that they “do not get promised 4G download speeds”, although companies make tall promises. “Internet is often very slow, and buffers on many instances,” a customer of a top telecom company said.

Concerns over poor service and slower speed have also been raised by the government, as it has started offering a variety of services online and is pushing digital payments in a big way.

Telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan has said the government is mindful of the slow internet speed experienced by internet users in many parts of the country.

Rajan Mathews, DG of industry body Cellular Operators Association of India, said it is wrong to blame telecom companies for poor services. “Average spectrum holding by companies in India is around 26 MHz compared to 50 MHz across top economies.” Also, he said telecom companies face problems in laying optical fiber as well as deploying towers.

2019, May

India and the world: Speed of internet connections, 2019, May
From: June 12, 2019: The Times of India

See graphic, 'India and the world: Speed of internet connections, 2019, May'

Unlawful URLs

2017-18: Govt got 75% of unlawful URLs blocked

Govt got 75% of unlawful URLs blocked in 1.5 years, July 25, 2018: The Times of India

Social media companies complied with nearly three-fourths of requests received from Indian law enforcement agencies over the past one-and-a-half years for blocking content and web pages deemed as unlawful under section 69A of Information Technology Act, 2000.

Junior minister Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, disclosed that of the 2,245 requests conveyed to companies, including Facebook, Twitter, You-Tube and Instagram for blocking of objectionable URLs, 1,662 were complied with.

As per compliance data for 2017 and 2018 (till June) put out by Ahir, Facebook had complied with nearly 89% of the requests received for blocking of objectionable content/URLs under the IT Act. YouTube accepted 83.5% of the recommendations received from the law enforcement agencies. Instagram and Twitter had blocked only 44% and 56% of the requested URLs respectively.

Usage of the Internet

1990-2017: growth in India, South Asia, world

1990-2017: the growth of Internet usage in India, South Asia, world
From: March 14, 2019: The Times of India

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1990-2017: the growth of Internet usage in India, South Asia, world

2012-15, India had world’s most first-time internet users

Dipak Dash, `From '12 to '15, India had highest No. of first-time internet users', October 29, 2017: The Times of India

India saw the highest number number of people going online for the first time during 2012-15 period among all countries, according to a recent report of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). About 17.8 crore people went online during this three-year period, which is much more than that of China, Brazil, Japan and neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The report titled “Measuring the Evolving Digital Economy“ was released last week indicate that this trend of more people going online will spur purchase of goods and services resulting in greater inclusion and involvement of citizens with the government and economic growth.

“Nearly 90% of the 750 million people that went online for the first time between 2012 and 2015 were from developing economies, with the largest numbers from India (178 million) and China (122 million),“ the report said. The findings will come as a big boost to the government at a time when it's pushing for digital literacy and promoting doing things digitally .Government sources said the number of people going online must have gone up in the past two years.

The report says in India, Mexico and Nigeria, the annual growth rates of internet use were between 4-6% from 2012 to 2015, whereas the growth rates have been much slower in developed economies, except for Japan, as the markets have already reached near saturation.

According to the report, in many developing countries, nearly half or more of the internet users went online for the first time in the last three years, as in Bangladesh, India, Iran and Pakistan. In Brazil and China, more than 50% people used the internet whereas in India only slightly more than a quarter use it.

“The next billion internet users will also be primarily from developing economies,“ the global report said.

Projecting trends of the future, the report said people doing online transactions will shift from traditional debit and credit cards to new methods of payment. “Their share is expected to drop to 46% by 2019, as e-wallets and other alternative payment methods (such as mobile money) gain in importance. In developed regions, digital payments are dominated by credit and debit cards, followed by e-wallets. In developing countries, by contrast, credit cards are rarely the most important payment method for e-commerce, and the uptake of digital payments is often low,“ the report said.

The UNCTAD report has also raised the concern of how companies, organisations, governments and individuals will need to pay more attention to protect their online data and devices as more economic activities go digital.

2014-17: prices fall, speed and usage increase rapidly

Pankaj Doval, Rising speed, falling prices make Indians gorge on data, June 3, 2018: The Times of India

2014-17: prices fall, speed and Internet usage increase rapidly
From: Pankaj Doval, Rising speed, falling prices make Indians gorge on data, June 3, 2018: The Times of India

People Switch To Smart TVs, Streaming

Indians are chugging data like never before. In just three years from 2014, monthly data usage in the country increased 15 times, as smartphones and mobile internet became cheaper and faster. At the end of 2014, the average monthly data consumption was only 0.26GB per person, which increased to over 4GB at the end of 2017, Trai figures show.

Usage has increased not only because fast 4G data is now very cheap, but due to sources of content for smartphones having multiplied. Most online videos are seen on smartphones, and a study by media analytics company Comscore shows 89% of Indians go online on phones and tablets — the highest share among large data-consumption economies. 4G, which promises speeds of at least 10Mbps, is the main driver of wireless data consumption, accounting for nearly 82% of total usage last year.

Data prices tumble to ₹19 from ₹269 per GB in 2014

4G data prices have fallen from an average of Rs 269 per GB in 2014 to Rs 19 now — and even lower in case of bundled individual data packs. It’s 7% of what customers paid earlier.

Prices dropped sharply after Reliance Jio, which has a 4G-only business model, launched in September 2016. However, with rising internet usage, rival companies like Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and BSNL have also expanded their 4G network.

Increasing wireless data consumption has been a boon for streaming services like YouTube, Gaana and Hotstar. Some, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, have even started commissioning and sourcing content in Hindi and other Indian languages.

Sales of “smart” or internet-ready TVs are also up. Rahul Tayal, a director at LG India, said smart TVs make up 40% of their TV sales now. Many TVs now come with apps such as Netflix, YouTube and Hotstar and consumers mirror-cast from their smartphones.

Not only data but also voice calls have increased after a dip. To keep up with Jio’s offering of free calls, competing operators have come up with their own schemes, effectively reducing voice prices to nil in case of bundled data offers.

Higher usage has not meant higher revenues and profitability for the companies. The average revenue per user (ARPU) — a key measure of a telecom company’s health — has been for GSM players from Rs 117 at the end of 2014 to around Rs 80 at the end of 2017.

The pressure is telling on older telecom players even as Jio remains aggressive and reports profits. Airtel, the country’s biggest mobile operator, has seen a decline in profitability since Jio’s launch and suffered its first loss (in Indian operations) during the January-March period this year.

2015: 375 million internet users

December 7, 2015: India Today

Usage of internet in India, some statistics- 2015
From: December 7, 2015: India Today

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Usage of internet in India, some statistics- 2015

India's internet user base is expected to touch 400 million by the end of 2015, making it the second largest in the world.

2016: Rural India saw 22% jump in internet use in one year: Unicef

December 12, 2017: The Times of India

There has been a massive growth in the number of internet users in rural India registering an increase of 22% in just one year, says an Unicef study which for the first time comprehensiely looked at the different ways digital technology is affecting children’s lives across the world.

According to the report, despite children’s massive online presence – one in three internet users worldwide is a child – too little is done to protect them from the perils of the digital world and to increase their access to safe online content.

A flagship report of the Unicef released on Monday, “State of World’s Children 2017: Children in a digital world,” says internet users in rural India saw a jump of 22% between between October 2015 and October 2016 to reach an estimated 157 million. Urban internet users in the country grew by 7% during the same period to touch 263 million.

“For better and for worse, digital technology is now an irreversible fact of our lives,” said Unicef executive director, Anthony Lake, adding, “In a digital world, our dual challenge is how to mitigate the harms while maximising the benefits of the internet for every child.” The report argues that governments and the private sector have not kept up with the pace of change, exposing children to new risks and harm and leaving millions of the most disadvantaged children behind.

2016> 2018: major increase

Chethan Kumar, Internet access in India has crossed 50-crore milestone, December 28, 2018: The Times of India

54 Crore Out Of The Total 56 Crore (Or 96%) Online Connections In The Country Are Via Mobile Phones

The number of internet connections in India has grown by 65% from March 2016 to cross the 50 crore mark in 2018, in line with the target set by the Narendra Modi government three years ago.

As per the latest information from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), by the end of September 2018, there were 56 crore narrowband and broadband connections in India.

Comparatively, there were just 34 crore connections as of March 31, 2016, which increased to 42 crore by March 31, 2017. By March 31, 2018, the total number of internet connections stood at 49 crore. That number increased to 51 crore internet connections at the end of June this year before the figure touched 56 crore as of September 30, 2018.

In December 2015, Union telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said: “My plan is to make 50 crore internet connections in India by 2018... I’m convinced that in the coming 2-3 years, India will become equal to China as an IT market of the world.”

Of the 56 crore connections, 64%, or 36 crore, are in the urban areas and 36%, or 19.4 crore, in the rural areas. While more service providers are focusing on rural areas, experts credit the increase in the hinterland to the infrastructure created by the government. The massive growth in urban centres on the other hand is attributed to the entry of Reliance Jio.

Professor Debabrata Das from the International Institute of Information Technology-Bangalore (IIIT-B), who was an integral part of the Centre’s National Information Infrastructure version 2.0 (NII 2.0), says: “The infrastructure created by staterun BSNL and the Centre’s BharatNet project that envisages connecting all gram panchayats with internet through an optical fibre network must be seen as crucial for the rural connections.”

Just five states — Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana), Gujarat and Maharashtra — account for 20 crore or 36% of all internet connections in India.

Compared to 2016, Karnataka reported a 58% growth in the number of internet connections, while the same was 45% for Tamil Nadu, 76% for Andhra Pradesh, 56% for Maharashtra and 70% for Gujarat.

“The huge increase is largely because of Jio. While BharatNet has created the infrastructure, the actual number of people using it is not much given that most subscribers have wireless connections,” Aravind Kumar, senior advisor, TRAI, told TOI.

Separate data from Trai shows that as of June 30, 2018, Reliance Jio was way ahead of all the other players in terms of market share, with state-run BSNL at the fifth spot. Sources in Trai said the same internet service providers continued to hold the top five positions.

Boosting rural connectivity, the Centre’s BharatNet project has so far connected 1.1 lakh gram panchayats (GPs)with internet through a network of optical fibre cable. Of the states, UP has the maximum GPs connected (27,940), followed by Maharashtra (15,126) and Madhya Pradesh (12,689).

2017: Increased use

Shalina Pillai & Anand J, Cashing in on local lingo The Times of India, September 7, 2017

Results of KPMG-Google survey of Internet use in Indian languages; Shalina Pillai & Anand J, Cashing in on local lingo The Times of India, September 7, 2017
Internet usage in India, some statistics, 2015-22(projected); The Times of India, Sep 18, 2017

Lower smartphone and data costs, and technology platforms like Aadhaar and UPI are making it viable for entrepreneurs to offer more products and services to tier 2 and 3 cities, and lower income groups.

And as they do, ventures offering local language content and support are becoming important

A nuradha Agarwal first realised the potential of a smartphone when she visited her hometown Jaipur for a break in 2016, and saw the interest in learning English among many of the women members in her Marwari family .Although English didn't come naturally to many of her relatives, they all had one thing in common ­ expensive phones. “I directed them to a few apps but they weren't comfortable with any ,“ says Agarwal. So she started a few customised chapters, which soon turned into a Facebook page with over 45,000 followers. And before long, it grew into a venture called MultiBhashi, a mobile platform that helped users learn English from 10 regional languages and vice versa. The app has seen over 95,000 downloads.

The growth of regional language users on the internet has been tremendous. A recent report by KPMG India and Google found that Indian language internet users have grown from 42 million in 2011 to 234 million in 2016, a number much higher than the 175 million English internet users in India in 2016. This spurt has helped entrepreneurs like Agarwal.

Lower data & smartphone costs

Indus OS, a mobile operating system targeted at Indians and which provides everything from the interface to app store in 12 Indian languages, works with eight Indian mobile brands including Micromax and Karbonn.Founder Rakesh Deshmukh says when they first tied up with Micromax in 2015, they were told that there would be a long term partnership only if 50,000 units were sold in a month. But in just 17 days of launch, 85,000 devices were sold. Today , Indus OS has 8 million users, and 77% of customers come from tier 2-3 cities.

Several factors have accelerated the pace in recent times ­ lower cost of smartphones and data, the rise of Jio, and the government's focus on digital. Aadhaar, eKYC, and the UPI layers of India Stack too are helping startups, says Bala Girisaballa, Microsoft Accelerator's residence-in-chief.

“We are starting to see a lot more activity (in local languages),“ he says. The accelerator's latest batch has two AI-based startups ­ Liv.Ai, and MegDap, which help convert local speech into text and translate one language to another.

The government's push for digital ­ in particular its dot Bharat domain registration scheme in 2014 ­ is what helped Ajay Data, founder of Jaipurbased Data Xgen, to come up with the idea of offering email domains in Indian languages.People can use the solution to send emails from addresses created in Indian language scripts to Gmail, Outlook, and others, as also communicate in those scripts. The company has part nered with the Rajasthan Government to provide a free email service in Hindi to all citizens.

Plenty of challenges still

Data Xgen has over 2 lakh users. But Data says he is finding it hard to scale due to challenges in integration with mainstream social media and e-commerce channels, which don't accept linguistic email address es as valid logins.

Agarwal's MultiBhashi is yet to find a viable revenue model for its consumer solution, partly because most users are from tier 2-3 cities and are unwilling to pay for the app. Agarwal, who is part of Axilor's latest accelerator batch, is trying to overcome this by targetting enterprises. She is doing pilots with a few companies to help their employees learn other languages.

The enterprise route is one that others have tried with success. Reverie Language Technologies, founded in 2009, provides language localisation for technology platforms right from the interface to the keyboard. It has 30 enterprise customers, including government bodies, internet companies and original equipment manufacturers. It has worked with the central government for its online commodities trading platform and the Karnataka government for digitising land records, says founder Arvind Pani

Investors warm up

Investors are warming up to this space, especially with the success of local language content ventures like Dailyhunt and InShorts. Virendra Gupta's Dailyhunt, an Indian language news aggregator, is the most funded in this space with $84 million. With a reach of 50 million monthly active users, Gupta says advertisements are a big opportunity. “Both financial and non-financial investors are interested in companies like ours as we are catering to the mass market,“ Gupta says.

Liv.Ai's founder Subodh Kumar agrees: “One year ago, investors didn't value regional languages much. Now they have understood the paying capacity of these regions,“ he says. His company has raised $4 million.

Asutosh Updahyay, head of programmes at Axilor, says a lot of players have emerged in the local language space. “You will have to rely on strategies that can effectively manage the app store ratings, discounts, get the right engineering, and build products which are engaging. There will be some amount of consolidation,“ he says.

2018: usage in India lowest in world

In 2018 Internet usage in India was the lowest among the countries surveyed
From: India closer to China in smartphone sales, but internet use as small as in Africa, July 28, 2018: The Times of India

See graphic  :

In 2018 Internet usage in India was the lowest among the countries surveyed.

India is second only to China in the number of people with internet on their phone, that is owning a smartphone. But it has the lowest internet use — just about half that of China. At 25%, internet penetration in India is closer to rates of some African countries, which are among the lowest in the world. This, despite the fact that the next generation of internet users is coming online via smartphones. In fact, a Pew Research Center survey of 39 countries found that despite internet and smartphone access rapidly expanding globally, the digital divide remains in developing countries.


Sindhu Hariharan, June 4, 2021: The Times of India

Internet userbase growth, 2018-20
From: Sindhu Hariharan, June 4, 2021: The Times of India

The year 2020 saw slower addition of new internet users but logged increased usage of the web by existing users.

While the total internet user base of India grew 20% in 2018 and 24% in 2019, in 2020 there was just 8% growth, according to an IAMAI-Kantar ICUBE study released on Thursday. This was primarily due to a dip in new mobile connections because of lockdown restrictions last year and the mass movement of migrants. Telecom regulator Trai’s estimates show that the number of mobile connections fell 0.7%, 0.5% and 0.3% respectively in April, May and June 2020.

The active internet user base (those who have accessed the internet in the last one month) stood at 622 million individuals as of 2020, and this pool grew faster in rural India at the rate of 13% to reach 299 million compared to a 4% growth rate in urban India, which had 323 million users. However, as of 2020, nine out of 10 active internet users accessed the web every day, and on average spent around 107 minutes actively on it — a growth of almost 21% from the previous year. This is also one of the highest singleyear growths compared to preceding year.

While the number of users did not grow at the same pace as previous years, the frequency of usage and the number of activities engaged in on the internet went up in 2020, Kantar executive VP (insights division) Biswapriya Bhattacharjee said. “Hence, the digital divide widened a bit more in the year,” he added.

As many as 96% of active users surfed the internet for entertainment-related activities during the year, followed by online communication (text, voice & video chats, emailing, etc.) and social media at 90% and 82% respectively, the study showed. The rise of online gaming and digital payments were more pronounced in 2020, it added. “We observed significant changes in sources of entertainment for users with more people getting on to OTT platforms compared to video streaming platforms earlier. The frequency of use of communication apps also increased,” Bhattacharjee said.

Mobile phones remain the most used device for accessing the internet on the back of cheaper data plans and growing prevalence of Indic language content on the world wide web. Out of the 622 million active internet users in India, 58% are male and remaining female. “The internet user market is still a male preserve in India, underlining the digital gender gap. However, the gender digital divide is now closing,” the study noted.

2019: more rural net users than urban

Digbijay Mishra & Madhav Chanchani, For the first time, India has more rural net users than urban, May 6, 2020: The Times of India


For the first time, India has more internet users in rural areas than in urban cities. The report by the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Nielsen showed rural India had 227 million active internet users, 10% more than urban India’s about 205 million, as of November 2019.

The numbers were boosted by the cheapest internet connections in the world.

In addition, there are around 71 million kids, aged 5-11 years, who go online using devices of family members. With this, India surpassed another milestone of having 504 million active internet users who are 5 years old or above — 53 million more than 451 million in March 2019. Active internet users are defined as those who use the internet at least once a month.

At 40%, India lags behind US, China in internet penetration

With 504 million active internet users who are 5 years old or above , India has become the second-largest internet user market behind China, which has about 850 million users. The United States has about 280-300 million users.

India remains behind both countries in internet penetration, which stands at 40% compared to over 88% for the US and 61% for China. The report by the Internet & Mobile Association of India and Nielsen also added that the increase in female internet users was much higher at 21% as compared to 9% for males during the March-November period. It said 26 million new female users went online during this period.

The potential of adding new users in the hinterland still remains “immense” in the coming few years, according to the report. The top eight metros had an internet penetration of 65% as of November 2019, compared to 63% as of March 2019.

These changes can be seen on women-focused platforms like POPxo, which has seen increasing users from small towns and in local languages. Founded in 2014, the platform tried an experiment with local languages, starting with Hindi four years ago, but shut it down as it didn’t attract enough users. It started Hindi again last year, which attracts as many pageviews as English now. A majority 13 million of the 22 million average monthly pageviews are in local languages — Hindi, Marathi and Bengali — with the remaining coming in English.

2020: 75cr connections

Chethan Kumar, November 16, 2020: The Times of India

Five states account for 35% of net connections, as in 2020
From: Chethan Kumar, November 16, 2020: The Times of India

The number of internet connections in India has breached the 75-crore milestone as of August 31 this year, 25 years after the service was thrown open to the public on August 15, 1995.

The number of connections more than doubled from 34 crore in March 2016, coinciding with Digital India programme launched in 2015. Most connections are in urban areas and availed of through mobile phones and dongles. As per Trai, there were 74.9 crore internet connections by the end of June 2020 — narrowband (5 crore) and broadband (69.2 crore) together. Broadband-specific data shows the country had 71 crore connections by the end of August 2020.

India’s internet connections: 61% in urban areas, 97% are wireless

Even if narrowband connections remained the same as in June, the total number of internet connections stood at 76.7 crore at the end of August. Both datasets were released last week. India hit the 50-crore mark in September 2018, as first reported by TOI. The country has since, on average, added 86 lakh connections each month.

While the overall subscriber data is available up to August, the breakups are available only up to June 30, 2020. As per that information, 61% of all connections were in urban areas and 97% of them were wireless. Lieutenant General (retired) SP Kochhar, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), told TOI: “While we have 97% of our broadband connections on mobiles, adequate network coverage of the population is hovering around 50%. There have to be more network rollouts; it must be affordable while ensuring quality of service.” He said the government must support telecom as a foundational sector since it enables many other sectors. COAI has proposed to Trai to introduce a minimum floor price for data on a trial basis, which the latter has said would be considered for an openhouse discussion. It has asked the government to reconsider spectrum charges and revisit other fees and charges causing distress to the sector.

Five states — Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana), Gujarat and Maharashtra — account for 26 crore (or 35% of all) internet connections. Separate data shows that as of June 30, 2020, Reliance Jio had the most market share.


India data centre growth, 2017
From: Oct 5, 2022: The Times of India

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India data centre growth, 2017

See also

E-commerce, M-commerce: India

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