Airtel’s Dirty Secret and My Letter to the TRAI

Note: I originally posted this article on a personal blog I ran when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I discovered in May 2020 that the Internet Archive had preserved the contents of that blog in its entirety, including some of the media. That blog was an important part of my personal history, so I reposted all of that content on this website for archival purposes. While my politics, opinions, and outlook on the world have changed radically since I wrote those posts between 2009 and 2011, it’s good to know that I was as much of an idiot then as I am now.


Update: The petition failed. My letter to Airtel was ignored, and TRAI thinks the Airtel Customer Care guys are qualified enough to do something about the new FUP. The new limits have already been discussed to death here. So much for net neutrality.

Update: TRAI seems to not really care. They replied to me with a link to a page containing Airtel’s customer care numbers and a few email addresses, along with a few office addresses. It looks like Airtel have noticed the IBF petition, though. I haven’t seen an advertisement for over 24 hours, and my speeds are back to normal. I’ll email a link to this post, as well as a link to the IBF petition to Airtel just in case (thanks to @ankurb for pointing out the email addresses.).

Two days ago, Airtel Broadband was probably the best ISP in New Delhi and the NCR, not because of the monthly plans they offer (the plans are expensive ) but because Airtel cared about their customers. That was, of course, two days ago. For the past two days, the Airtel folks have been intercepting their users’ HTTP requests to show them full page ads of their DTH services. Here’s one, if you haven’t seen it already.

If you’re thinking that’s bad, wait until you hear what they did next. After you have used a certain amount of bandwidth in a month, your internet speed is halved. This happens only for users of the exceedingly overpriced “unlimited” plans.

A few disgruntled users over at India Broadband Forums have started a petition. You can sign it here. I also sent off an email to the TRAI requesting them to take a look into the matter. Even though I haven’t had good experiences with trying to contact government offices via email, I believe it was worth a try. It would be fun to see how they react to IBF’s online petition. What follows is the full text of the email I sent to the TRAI.

Subject: Complaint Against Malpractices by Airtel Broadband

Thousands of Airtel Broadband (the broadband service provided by Bharti Airtel) users have noticed that after having used a certain amount of bandwidth, the speeds of their so-called “unlimited” broadband connections are halved. This clause was not mentioned in the original Airtel ToS (Terms of Service), and the customers were not notified of the change. Airtel have also been intercepting users’ HTTP requests to show them large, full page ads before they allow them to continue to their requested destination. This is an invasion of the users’ privacy, and another change in the original ToS which the customers have not been notified of. More details of the issue are available here: http://afup.broadbandforum.in/

As a college student, I rely heavily on the Internet for course related information, the majority of which is in the form of audio and video which requires several gigabytes of unrestricted bandwidth per month. Letting this issue go under the radar will mean thousands of college students who use Airtel Broadband will suffer. People also use their broadband connections for bandwidth intensive tasks such as video conferencing and VoIP, collaborative software development and content distribution. If Airtel is allowed to continue with their anti-consumer practices, thousands of users who rely on a fast, cheap Internet connection for their livelihood will be inconvenienced.

I request you to kindly file a formal complaint against Bharti Airtel.

Thanking you,
Ankur Sethi

I urge anybody who has contacts in TRAI to try and make a formal complaint against Airtel. Everyone else can still contact them at any of the email addresses or telephone numbers mentioned here.