Internet Intelligence Brief: Venezuela and the Falklands/Saint Helena

This post is presented in conjunction with The Internet Society. Many thanks to our contributing authors, Doug Madory and Matt Prosser. 

Welcome to our rebrand of the “Last Month in Internet Intelligence” series. “Internet Intelligence Brief” will provide similar content, but will allow us to cover the most interesting topics that arise in our Internet Intelligence Map in a more timely and relevant manner. Feel free to peruse our new recurring section “Updates from our Team”, which will highlight our participation in recent events, new product features/launches, and other interesting updates about our team.

Ongoing Connectivity Disruptions in Venezuela

Venezuela has been embroiled in political unrest since early January 2019, following the start of the second presidential term of incumbent Nicolas Maduro. We compiled two months of Internet Intelligence Map data to get a view of the unrest from an internet connectivity perspective, which we have plotted in Figure 1, below.

Figure 1.

Opposition leader Juan Gaido returned to Venezuela on March 4th after defying his travel ban to travel around South American and garner support for the opposition.

On March 8th, power outages began plaguing Venezuela and continued for four days. The Miami Herald reports this coincided with Gaido’s tour of Caracas and his rally for International Women’s Day.  

The Maduro administration blamed the blackouts on sabotage by the opposition and its allies while the opposition blamed blackouts on government mismanagement. As you can see on the graph above, traceroutes nearly bottomed out for the entire four day period, a trend reflected likewise in the authoritative DNS query data. The drop in traceroute completion indicates connectivity impairment as measurements into the country cannot be completed while DNS query rate indicates the Venezuelan internet usage has dropped. A simultaneous effect across traceroutes, BGP routes, and DNS query rate is a solid indication of a major internet blackout, which are often caused by major power outages (as noted by our Twitter follower @andresazp, below)

Google Translate: #Venezuela remains mostly disconnected to #internetve Less than 23% of traceroutes of @InternetIntel complete successfully. This metric is also a good proxy for the advances and setbacks in restoring electrical service.

On March 25th, BBC reported Russian military planes arrived in Caracas. The following day rolling blackouts were seen across the country, again evidenced in our graphs in Figure 1 (above) through the proxy of internet connectivity.

Political unrest continues to roil the country and Maduro’s government tightens its grip on the opposition. Since the end of March, internet connectivity has started to return to normal levels. On April 30th, clashes erupted in Caracas, but we observed no significant disruption in our metrics. Despite this there are there are continued reports of blocked access to sites like Google and YouTube.

Stay tuned to our Internet Intelligence Map for further connectivity updates as the situation progresses.

Saint Helena and the Falkland Islands Face Simultaneous Outages

On 30 April 2019, internet service in the Falkland Islands and Saint Helena suffered simultaneous outages.

We often see large outages in islands or remote areas due to limited sources for internet connectivity and/or extreme weather events.

In this case, Sure South Atlantic Ltd is only source of internet connectivity for these two British Overseas Territories. A technical glitch during Sure’s scheduled maintenance extended what was supposed to be an hour of planned downtime into a 4-hour blackout. In his blog, Chris Gare, a former telecoms consultant to the Falklands Government, highlighted another fallout of the blackout in the South Atlantic, namely that the DNS zone for the .fk TLD (which is also run by Sure South Atlantic Ltd) went completely down. It turns out that Sure hosts both NS servers for .fk (ns1.horizon.net.fk = 195.248.193.250, ns2.horizon.net.fk = 195.248.193.251) in the same routed prefix essentially negating the redundancy of multiple NS servers.

The outage also highlights the efforts of Saint Helena to secure a source of high-speed internet other than satellite, which can be expensive, high-latency and capacity constrained. For several years, the “Move This Cable” campaign has advocated for a modification of the route of the proposed SAEx submarine cable. According to its website, “there are over 4,200 people living on one of the most isolated islands in the world” and that landing the SAEx cable in Saint Helena would allow the locals to "finally join the information society, ... improve standards of education and healthcare, as well as offering new economic prospects.” After securing a grant of € 21.5 million for the branch from the European Union, funding of the trunk cable across the South Atlantic has become uncertain recently. Learn more here

Other Recent Internet Intelligence Map Events

  • May 8th: Greenland Cable repair outages
  • April 24th: Marshall Islands outage related to cable repair
  • April 28th: Benin’s connectivity was disrupted due to a government internet shutdown

Updates from our Team

  • Doug Madory, our Director of Internet Analysis, presented at Euroix in Toulouse, France on April 1st regarding our ongoing work with the Internet Society to promote the MANRS initiative to reduce global routing threats.

  • Doug also presented at the Global Peering Forum in mid-April in Montreal, Canada.

  • Congrats to our colleague Chris Baker for attending the CCDCOE Locked Shields exercise.

  • Our Oracle colleague, Laurent Gil, will be presenting at Oracle CODE in NYC on May 21st, discussing the need to add internet visibility into network monitoring.

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