Iran Shuts Down The Internet

Iran has almost completely shut off access to the Internet across the country and as protests over an increase in fuel prices has intensified. The government is apparently seeking to silence protestors and quell unrest.

Real-time network data show connectivity has fallen to just 7% of ordinary levels following twelve hours of progressive network disconnections as public protests have continued across the country, accordimg to Netblocks. 

Iranian authorities first began disrupting internet access across multiple cities, including Tehran, last week when widespread protests over fuel rationing and price rises of more than 50 percent began to take place after widespread protests. 

Iranians began experiencing Internet slowdowns oapproaching a a near-total internet and mobile data blackout.​ So how does a country like Iran switch off the Internet to a population of more than 80 million? 

Though some countries, like China have built their Internet infrastructure from the start with government control in mind, most don't have a central set of levers they can pull to influence country-wide access to content or connectivity.  But regimes around the world, including Russia and Iran, have increasingly been retrofitting traditional private and decentralised networks with cooperation agreements, technical implants, or a combination to give officials more influence. 

In countries like Ethiopia, Venezuela, and Iraq, along with disputed regions like Kashmir, government-led social media blocking and more extensive outages have become the norm.

“This is the most wide-scale Internet shutdown that we’ve seen in Iran,” says Adrian Shahbaz, research director at the pro-democracy group Freedom House,  which tracks internet censorship and restriction worldwide. “It’s surprising to see the Iranian authorities block all internet connections rather than only international internet connections, because the latter is a tactic that they’ve used in the past. ..... It could mean they are more fearful of their own people and worry that they cannot control the information space amidst these economic protests.” Shahbaz told Wired.

The process to block an entire country's internet connectivity depends on the set-up. Countries with lowlevels of  internet penetration typically have just one government-controlled internet service provider, perhaps alongside smaller ISPs. 

But all usually gain access from an under-sea cable or international network node, creating "upstream" choke points that officials can use to essentially block a country's connectivity at its source.

The more extensive and diverse a country's infrastructure, though, the more involved the digital blackout process becomes. Alp Toker, the director of non-partisan connectivity tracking group NetBlocks, says it took Iranian authorities about 24 hours to completely block the nation's inbound and outbound traffic, leaving it hovering at about 5 to 7 percent of typical connectivity levels. 

Increasingly over the past decade, the Iranian regime has focused on building out a centralised national "intranet" that allows it to provide citizens with web services while policing all content on the network and limiting information from external sources. 

Known as the "National information network" or SHOMA, the effort has centered on the state-owned Telecommunication Company or Iran, which is run by a number of former government officials. In the process of establishing this internal web, the Iranian regime has taken more and more control over both public and private connectivity in the name of national security. 

El Arabiya:           Wired

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