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Internet disruptions overview for Q3 2022

Internet disruptions overview for Q3 2022

Cloudflare operates in more than 275 cities in over 100 countries, where we interconnect with over 10,000 network providers in order to provide a broad range of services to millions of customers. The breadth of both our network and our customer base provides us with a unique perspective on Internet resilience, enabling us to observe the impact of Internet disruptions. In many cases, these disruptions can be attributed to a physical event, while in other cases, they are due to an intentional government-directed shutdown. In this post, we review selected Internet disruptions observed by Cloudflare during the third quarter of 2022, supported by traffic graphs from Cloudflare Radar and other internal Cloudflare tools, and grouped by associated cause or common geography. The new Cloudflare Radar Outage Center provides additional information on these, and other historical, disruptions.

Government directed shutdowns

Unfortunately, for the last decade, governments around the world have turned to shutting down the Internet as a means of controlling or limiting communication among citizens and with the outside world. In the third quarter, this was an all too popular cause of observed disruptions, impacting countries and regions in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Caribbean.

Iraq

As mentioned in our Q2 summary blog post, on June 27, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq began to implement twice-weekly (Mondays and Thursday) multi-hour regional Internet shutdowns over the following four weeks, intended to prevent cheating on high school final exams. As seen in the figure below, these shutdowns occurred as expected each Monday and Thursday through July 21, with the exception of July 21. They impacted three governorates in Iraq, and lasted from 0630–1030 local time (0330–0730 UTC) each day.

Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Duhok Governorates, Iraq. (Source: Map data ©2022 Google, Mapa GISrael)

Cuba

In Cuba, an Internet disruption was observed between 0055-0150 local time (0455-0550 UTC) on July 15 amid reported anti-government protests in Los Palacios and Pinar del Rio.

Los Palacios and Pinar del Rio, Cuba. (Source: Map data ©2022 INEGI)

Closing out the quarter, another significant disruption was observed in Cuba, reportedly in response to protests over the lack of electricity in the wake of Hurricane Ian. A complete outage is visible in the figure below between 2030 on September 29 and 0315 on September 30 local time (0030-0715 UTC on September 30).

Afghanistan

Telecommunications services were reportedly shut down in part of Kabul, Afghanistan on the morning of August 8. The figure below shows traffic dropping starting around 0930 local time (0500 UTC), recovering 11 hours later, around 2030 local time (1600 UTC).

Kabul, Afghanistan. (Source: Map data ©2022 Google)

Sierra Leone

Protests in Freetown, Sierra Leone over the rising cost of living likely drove the Internet disruptions observed within the country on August 10 & 11. The first one occurred between 1200-1400 local time (1200-1400 UTC) on August 10. While this outage is believed to have been government directed as a means of quelling the protests, Zoodlabs, which manages Sierra Leone Cable Limited, claimed that the outage was the result of “emergency technical maintenance on some of our international routes”.

A second longer outage was observed between 0100-0730 local time (0100-0730 UTC) on August 11, as seen in the figure below. These shutdowns follow similar behavior in years past, where Internet connectivity was shut off following elections within the country.

Freetown, Sierra Leone (Source: Map data ©2022 Google, Inst. Geogr. Nacional)

Region of Somaliland

In Somaliland, local authorities reportedly cut off Internet service on August 11 ahead of scheduled opposition demonstrations. The figure below shows a complete Internet outage in Woqooyi Galbeed between 0645-1355 local time (0345-1055 UTC.)

Woqooyi Galbeed, Region of Somaliland. (Source: Map data ©2022 Google, Mapa GISrael)

At a network level, the observed outage was due to a loss of traffic from AS37425 (SomCable) and AS37563 (Somtel), as shown in the figures below. Somtel is a mobile services provider, while SomCable is focused on providing wireline Internet access.

India

India is no stranger to government-directed Internet shutdowns, taking such action hundreds of times over the last decade. This may be changing in the future, however, as the country’s Supreme Court ordered the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) to reveal the grounds upon which it imposes or approves Internet shutdowns. Until this issue is resolved, we will continue to see regional shutdowns across the country.

One such example occurred in Assam, where mobile Internet connectivity was shut down to prevent cheating on exams. The figure below shows that these shutdowns were implemented twice daily on August 21 and August 28. While the shutdowns were officially scheduled to take place between 1000-1200 and 1400-1600 local time (0430-0630 and 0830-1030 UTC), some providers reportedly suspended connectivity starting in the early morning.

Assam, India. (Source: Map data ©2022 Google, TMap Mobility)

Iran

In late September, protests and demonstrations have erupted across Iran in response to the death of Mahsa Amini. Amini was a 22-year-old woman from the Kurdistan Province of Iran, and was arrested on September 13, 2022, in Tehran by Iran’s “morality police”, a unit that enforces strict dress codes for women. She died on September 16 while in police custody. In response to these protests and demonstrations, Internet connectivity across the country experienced multiple waves of disruptions.

In addition to multi-hour outages in Sanadij and Tehran province on September 19 and 21 that were covered in a blog post, three mobile network providers — AS44244 (Irancell), AS57218 (RighTel), and AS197207 (MCCI) — implemented daily Internet “curfews”, generally taking place between 1600 and midnight local time (1230-2030 UTC), although the start times varied on several days. These regular shutdowns are clearly visible in the figure below, and continued into early October.

Sanandij and Tehran, Iran. (Source: Map data ©2022 Google)

As noted in the blog post, access to DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH) and DNS-over-TLS (DoT) services was also blocked in Iran starting on September 20, and in a move that is likely related, connections over HTTP/3 and QUIC were blocked starting on September 22, as shown in the figure below from Cloudflare Radar.

Natural disasters

Natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes wreak havoc on impacted geographies, often causing loss of life, as well as significant structural damage to buildings of all types. Infrastructure damage is also extremely common, with widespread loss of both electrical power and telecommunications infrastructure.

Papua New Guinea

On September 11, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck Papua New Guinea, resulting in landslides, cracked roads, and Internet connectivity disruptions. Traffic to the country dropped by 26% just after 1100 local time (0100 UTC) . The figure below shows that traffic volumes remained lower into the following day as well. An announcement from PNG DataCo, a local provider, noted that the earthquake “has affected the operations of the Kumul Submarine Cable Network (KSCN) Express Link between Port Moresby and Madang and the PPC-1 Cable between Madang and Sydney.” This damage, they stated, resulted in the observed outage and degraded service.

Mexico

Just over a week later, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck the Colima-Michoacan border region in Mexico at 1305 local time (1805 UTC). As shown in the figure below, traffic dropped over 50% in the impacted states immediately after the quake occurred, but recovered fairly quickly, returning to normal levels by around 1600 local time (2100 UTC).

Earthquake epicenter, 35 km SW of Aguililla, Mexico. (Source: Map data ©2022 INEGI)

Hurricane Fiona

Several major hurricanes plowed their way up the east coast of North America in late September, causing significant damage, resulting in Internet disruptions. On September 18, island-wide power outages caused by Hurricane Fiona disrupted Internet connectivity on Puerto Rico. As the figure below illustrates, it took over 10 days for traffic volumes to return to expected levels. Luma Energy, the local power company, kept customers apprised of repair progress through regular updates to its Twitter feed.

Two days later, Hurricane Fiona slammed the Turks and Caicos islands, causing flooding and significant damage, as well as disrupting Internet connectivity. The figure below shows traffic starting to drop below expected levels around 1245 local time (1645 UTC) on September 20. Recovery took approximately a day, with traffic returning to expected levels around 1100 local time (1500 UTC) on September 21.

Continuing to head north, Hurricane Fiona ultimately made landfall in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia on September 24, causing power outages and disrupting Internet connectivity. The figure below shows that the most significant impact was seen in Nova Scotia. As Nova Scotia Power worked to restore service to customers, traffic volumes gradually increased, as seen in the figure below. By September 29, traffic volumes on the island had returned to normal levels.

Hurricane Ian

On September 28, Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida, and was the strongest hurricane to hit Florida since Hurricane Michael in 2018. With over four million customers losing power due to damage from the storm, a number of cities experienced associated Internet disruptions. Traffic from impacted cities dropped significantly starting around 1500 local time (1900 UTC), and as the figure below shows, recovery has been slow, with traffic levels still not back to pre-storm volumes more than two weeks later.

Sarasota, Naples, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, North Port, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, and Marco Island, Florida. (Source: Map data ©2022 Google, INEGI)

Power outages

In addition to power outages caused by earthquakes and hurricanes, a number of other power outages caused multi-hour Internet disruptions during the third quarter.

Iran

A reported power outage in a key data center building disrupted Internet connectivity for customers of local ISP Shatel in Iran on July 25. As seen in the figure below, traffic dropped significantly at approximately 0715 local time (0345 UTC). Recovery began almost immediately, with traffic nearing expected levels by 0830 local time (0500 UTC).

Venezuela

Electrical issues frequently disrupt Internet connectivity in Venezuela, and the independent @vesinfiltro Twitter account tracks these events closely. One such example occurred on August 9, when electrical issues disrupted connectivity across multiple states, including Mérida, Táchira, Barinas, Portuguesa, and Estado Trujillo. The figure below shows evidence of two disruptions, the first around 1340 local time (1740 UTC) and the second a few hours later, starting at around 1615 local time (2015 UTC). In both cases, traffic volumes appeared to recover fairly quickly.

Mérida, Táchira, Barinas, Portuguesa, and Estado Trujillo, Venezuela. (Source: Map data ©2022 Google. INEGI)

Oman

On September 5, a power outage in Oman impacted energy, aviation, and telecommunications services. The latter is evident in the figure below, which shows the country’s traffic volume dropping nearly 60% when the outage began just before 1515 local time (0915 UTC). Although authorities claimed that “the electricity network would be restored within four hours,” traffic did not fully return to normal levels until 0400 local time on September 6 (2200 UTC on September 5) the following day, approximately 11 hours later.

Ukraine

Over the last seven-plus months of war in Ukraine, we have observed multiple Internet disruptions due to infrastructure damage and power outages related to the fighting. We have covered these disruptions in our first and second quarter summary blog posts, and continue to do so on our @CloudflareRadar Twitter account as they occur. Power outages were behind Internet disruptions observed in Kharkiv on September 11, 12, and 13.

The figure below shows that the first disruption started around 2000 local time (1700 UTC) on September 11. This near-complete outage lasted just over 12 hours, with traffic returning to normal levels around 0830 local time (0530 UTC) on the 12th. However, later that day, another partial outage occurred, with a 50% traffic drop seen at 1330 local time (1030 UTC). This one was much shorter, with recovery starting approximately an hour later. Finally, a nominal disruption is visible at 0800 local time (0500 UTC) on September 13, with lower than expected traffic volumes lasting for around five hours.

Cable damage

Damage to both terrestrial and submarine cables have caused many Internet disruptions over the years. The recent alleged sabotage of the sub-sea Nord Stream natural gas pipelines has brought an increasing level of interest from European media (including Swiss and French publications) around just how important submarine cables are to the Internet, and an increasing level of concern among policymakers about the safety of these cable systems and the potential impact of damage to them. However, the three instances of cable damage reviewed below are all related to terrestrial cable.

Iran

On August 1, a reported “fiber optic cable” problem caused by a fire in a telecommunications manhole disrupted connectivity across multiple network providers, including AS31549 (Aria Shatel), AS58224 (TIC), AS43754 (Asiatech), AS44244 (Irancell), and AS197207 (MCCI). The disruption started around 1215 local time (0845 UTC) and lasted for approximately four hours. Because it impacted a number of major wireless and wireline networks, the impact was visible at a country level as well, as seen in the figure below.

Pakistan

Cable damage due to heavy rains and flooding caused several Internet disruptions in Pakistan in August. The first notable disruption occurred on August 19, starting around 0700 local time (0200 UTC) and lasted just over six and a half hours. On August 22, another significant disruption is also visible, starting at 2250 local time (1750 UTC), with a further drop at 0530 local time (0030 UTC) on the 23rd. The second more significant drop was brief, lasting only 45 minutes, after which traffic began to recover.

Haiti

Amidst protests over fuel price hikes, fiber cuts in Haiti caused Internet outages on multiple network providers. Starting at 1500 local time (1900 UTC) on September 14, traffic on AS27759 (Access Haiti) fell to zero. According to a (translated) Twitter post from the provider, they had several fiber optic cables that were cut in various areas of the country, and blocked roads made it “really difficult” for their technicians to reach the problem areas. Repairs were eventually made, with traffic starting to increase again around 0830 local time (1230 UTC) on September 15, as shown in the figure below.

Access Haiti provides AS27774 (Haiti Networking Group) with Internet connectivity (as an “upstream” provider), so the fiber cut impacted their connectivity as well, causing the outage shown in the figure below.

Technical problems

As a heading, “technical problems” can be a catch-all, referring to multiple types of issues, including misconfigurations and routing problems. However, it is also sometimes the official explanation given by a government or telecommunications company for an observed Internet disruption.

Rogers

Arguably the most significant Internet disruption so far this year took place on AS812 (Rogers), one of Canada’s largest Internet service providers. At around 0845 UTC on July 8, a near complete loss of traffic was observed, as seen in the figure below.

The figure below shows that small amounts of traffic were seen from the network over the course of the outage, but it took nearly 24 hours for traffic to return to normal levels.

A notice posted by the Rogers CEO explained that “We now believe we’ve narrowed the cause to a network system failure following a maintenance update in our core network, which caused some of our routers to malfunction early Friday morning. We disconnected the specific equipment and redirected traffic, which allowed our network and services to come back online over time as we managed traffic volumes returning to normal levels.” A Cloudflare blog post covered the Rogers outage in real-time, highlighting related BGP activity and small increases of traffic.

Chad

A four-hour near-complete Internet outage took place in Chad on August 12, occurring between 1045 and 1300 local time (0945 to 1400 UTC). Authorities in Chad said that the disruption was due to a “technical problem” on connections between Sudachad and networks in Cameroon and Sudan.

Unknown

In many cases, observed Internet disruptions are attributed to underlying causes thanks to statements by service providers, government officials, or media coverage of an associated event. However, for some disruptions, no published explanation or associated event could be found.

On August 11, a multi-hour outage impacted customers of US telecommunications provider Centurylink in states including Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, as shown in the figure below. The outage was also visible in a traffic graph for AS209, the associated autonomous system.

Starlink

On August 30, satellite Internet provider suffered a global service disruption, lasting between 0630-1030 UTC as seen in the figure below.

Conclusion

As part of Cloudflare’s Birthday Week at the end of September, we launched the Cloudflare Radar Outage Center (CROC). The CROC is a section of our new Radar 2.0 site that archives information about observed Internet disruptions. The underlying data that powers the CROC is also available through an API, enabling interested parties to incorporate data into their own tools, sites, and applications. For regular updates on Internet disruptions as they occur and other Internet trends, follow @CloudflareRadar on Twitter.

Source:: CloudFlare