There is no denying that internet outages can have an impact on company’s revenues and user experience, but understanding the economic impact when a government orders a internet shutdown is difficult to do. We now have a better understanding of the financial ramifications of these incidents thanks to the Brookings Institute. The American think tank published a report this week that reveals that internet shutdowns cost countries $2.4 billion last year.
You can read the entire report here.
In reading the report you will notice that Dyn is referenced directly several times and articles dealing with internet volatility that Dyn contributed to are also cited. When it comes to understanding the performance of the internet, the Brookings Institute knows that Dyn has unrivaled insight and analysis.
I asked our own Director of Internet Analysis Doug Madory, who contributed much of the data and analysis cited by the Brookings report, about the findings.
Q: Doug, do you think tying economic impact to internet outages is a useful way of addressing this issue?
A: I think this is valuable analysis. The hope is that a government would be less likely to order an internet blackout if it knew the negative impacts of such a decision in terms of hard dollar figures. Would this analysis have dissuaded President Ali Bongo of Gabon last month from ordering a 104-hour internet blackout in response to violent protests against his re-election? Perhaps, perhaps not. If an authoritarian leader is threatened, this rationality may not carry much weight. Alternatively, in Iraq, I know of at least one senior official who has lobbied internally against the recurring exam-related internet blackouts. This type of analysis could potentially help those voices within the government lobbying against the blackouts.
Q: It seems like we’re constantly reading about internet outages, have you seen an increase in them over the past few years?
A: As one who documents and reports on these incidents, national blackouts these days seem fairly unremarkable due to the prevalence as of late. Currently, Iraq is in the middle of its third round of 6th grade placement exams and again implementing internet blackouts to prevent cheating. Earlier this year, war-torn Syria had two rounds of blackouts for its high school final exams. Following a contested election, the West African country of Gabon experienced a 104-hour blackout followed by 23 days of an unprecedented ‘Internet curfew’. There have also been blackouts that have affected only restive parts within a country like Tachira, Venezuela, or Gondar, Ethiopia or in Kashmir. Alternatively, there have been national blocks against specific web resources like Youtube in Pakistan, Twitter in Turkey, and WhatsApp in Brazil, all of which have since restored access. Blocks on Internet service can take many forms but as the number of documented cases increases, it is hard to deny they are part of a worrying trend.
The bottom line is that as the power of the internet grows within society, the more of a target it becomes to those who wish to limit free and open communication.