In June, we launched the Internet Intelligence microsite (home of this blog), featuring the new Internet Intelligence Map. As the associated blog post noted, “This free site will help to democratize Internet analysis by exposing some of our internal capabilities to the general public in a single tool. …. And since major Internet outages (whether intentional or accidental) will be with us for the foreseeable future, we believe offering a self-serve capability for some of the insights we produce is a great way to move towards a healthier and more accountable Internet.”
While we will continue to share information about Internet disruptions and events as they occur via @InternetIntel, we also plan to provide a monthly roundup in a blog post, allowing readers to learn about Internet disruptions and events that they may have missed, while enabling us to provide additional context and insight beyond what fits within Twitter’s character limit.
In the past, countries including Iraq, Syria, and Ethiopia have implemented partial or complete national Internet shutdowns in an effort to prevent student cheating on exams. This past month saw Iraq implement yet another round of Internet shutdowns, and Algeria began a similar program as well.
The Internet Intelligence Map graphs shown above highlight Internet shutdowns that occurred in Iraq on June 21 and June 27. The national backbone was taken down from 4:00-6:00 UTC on the 21st, and from 3:00-5:00 UTC on the 27th to prevent student cheating as a second round of student exams began. An earlier round of shutdowns took place between May 27 and June 16, and this second round is expected to last until July 12. According to a published report, the shutdowns are being implemented at the request of the Ministry of Education.
A day prior, three separate brief disruptions to Internet connectivity occurred in Algeria, as shown in the figure above. According to a published report, “The Algerian Ministry of National Education announced that it will cut the Internet service across the entire country for an hour after the start of each High School Certificate Examination to avoid any exam leakage.” In addition to this Internet shutdown, additional measures were put into place in an effort to limit cheating, including banning mobile phones, tablets and other digital devices at exam locations.
The lower graph in the figure below shows the impact of these shutdowns on Telecom Algeria, the country’s state-owned telecommunications operator. Similar to the drops seen in the traceroute completion ratio in the figure above, three similar declines are seen in the number of completed traceroutes to endpoints within Telecom Algeria’s network on June 20.
A blog post from advocacy group SMEX indicated that Mauritania was also planning to implement a similar set of Internet shutdowns for exams between June 11 and June 21, and a Twitter post from them on June 19 highlighted a four-hour shutdown observed that day. However, there was no evidence of such shutdowns within the country seen in the Internet Intelligence Map on June 19, or over the broader time period. This may be because the shutdowns were more targeted in nature, affecting only mobile connectivity, according to a published report.
Internet outages due to fiber cuts are not all that unusual, unfortunately, and occur fairly frequently on a local basis. However, sometimes these cuts have a wider impact, impacting Internet connectivity on a national basis. The Internet Intelligence team has used our measurement data in the past to illustrate the impact of cuts in the Ukraine, Egypt, Armenia, Chile, and Arizona.
On June 18, @Abdalla_Salmi posted the following Tweet:
— Abdalla S (@Abdalla_Salmi) June 18, 2018
This Internet disruption in Libya can be seen clearly in the figure below starting late in the day GMT, lasting for just over 16 hours. The graphs show that it was not a complete national Internet outage, with none of the metrics dropping to/near zero, in line with the Tweeted statement that connectivity issues were only seen in some areas of the country.
According to a subsequent Facebook post from the Libyan Interim Government, the Internet disruption was due to a breakdown in a fiber optic cable – it was not due to fighting in the region. A published report included more details, explaining that the country’s General Authority for Communications and Informatics (GACI) said that the interruption was caused by a cut in the fiber optic cable in the Ghanema district near the city of Khoms in the western region, and that the services were restored gradually after maintenance work by Hatif Libya Company.
Just a few days earlier, on June 13, the Democratic Republic of the Congo experienced an Internet disruption that lasted for approximately half a day, as seen in the figure below. The country is no stranger to Internet disruptions, and has experienced issues in the past related to widespread political protests.
However, it appears that the problem this time was related to issues with a submarine cable, according to a Tweet from local telecommunications provider MTN Congo:
Y’ello Chers abonnés
MTN CONGO s’excuse pour les désagréments occasionnés par la coupure d’internet hier du fait de la lésion du câble sous-marin et vous remercie pour votre compréhension. pic.twitter.com/7a9Ty2wHZL
— MTN CONGO (@MTN_123) June 14, 2018
According to TeleGeography’s submarinecablemap.com, the Congo is connected to the West African Cable System (WACS) and the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable. A March 30 cut to the ACE cable impacted connectivity to 10 countries (not including the Congo), but it is unclear if it was the culprit in this disruption as well.