In a press release on Thursday, the Department of Telecom (DoT) said it has asked Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to explain why action should not be taken against them for unintentionally blocking some Web sites. This refers to the blocking of the Blogspot, Typepad and Yahoo! Geocities domains by ISPs across the country since July 15, after being asked to block just some sub-domains hosted by those services.
Responding to this, Amitabh Singhal, a spokesperson for the Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) said that ISPs had been asked to immediately comply with the government order, without a clarification on how it was to be carried out.
The DoT press release read, 'The DoT has now directed all ISPs to strictly comply with the order dated July 13, 2006 and provide unhindered access to Internet except for the Web sites/Web pages which have been specifically mentioned in its orders issued from time to time.'
On its part, the ISPAI clarified, in a letter to the DoT, what procedure it was following to block the 18 Web sites. ISPAI Secretary Deepak Maheshwari wrote, 'At the DNS (Domain Name Server) level, the blocking of particular domain (suchandusuch.suchandsuch) or sub-domain (e.g. suchandusuch.suchandsuch.suchandsuch) is done by redirecting the DNS query to a NULL IP. Thereafter, any query to such domain / sub-domain that has been blocked by the particular ISP, will be responded with a Blank IP by the DNS.'
The system has its share of problems though. Maheshwari further said, 'It is pertinent to mention that carrying out changes in the DNS entries is considered a non-standard practice and, hence, has the inherent risk of overseas Domain Name Servers blocking the DNS of Indian ISPs. In such an eventuality, the ISPs would be left with no choice but to block the sites at the IP level only.'
ISPs can block sub-domains, but not particular extensions. This means that while abcsub.xyzdomain.com can be blocked, Maheshwari said that a page like abcsub.xyzdomain.com/something.html cannot be blocked individually, which is why the entire domain or sub-domain in question has to be blocked.
In an advisory to ISPs yesterday, ISPAI Deputy Director Puneet Tiwari had said, 'Please take care that, in cases where specific sub-domains have been directed to be blocked, only such specific sub-domains are to be blocked at the DNS by the respective ISPs, not the whole domain.'
The ISPAI had said it hopes access to blogs would be restored in 48 hours. Unconfirmed reports from bloggers say that BSNL, VSNL and Sify users can now access blogspot sites.
-- The reporter blogs at National Highway.