Q3 2023 Internet disruption summary

Created on November 12, 2023 at 10:32 am

15 min TIME read

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Cloudflare operates in more than 300 CARDINAL cities in over 100 CARDINAL countries, where we interconnect with over 12,500 CARDINAL network providers in order to provide a broad range of services to millions CARDINAL 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.

We have been publishing these summaries since the first quarter of 2022 DATE , and over that time, the charts on Cloudflare Radar PRODUCT have evolved. Many of the traffic graphs in early editions of this summary were screenshots from the relevant traffic pages on Radar PRODUCT . Late last year DATE , we launched the ability to download graphs, and earlier this year DATE , to embed dynamic graphs, and these summaries have taken advantage of those capabilities where possible. Sharp-eyed readers may notice an additional evolution in some of the graphs below: yellow highlighting indicating an observed “traffic anomaly”. Identification of such anomalies, along with the ability to be notified about them, as well as a timeline enhancement (embedded below) to the Cloudflare Radar Outage Center PRODUCT , were launched as part of Birthday Week DATE at the end of September DATE . More information on these new features can be found in our announcement blog post.

As we have seen in previous quarters DATE , Iraq GPE pursued an aggressive plan of government-directed Internet shutdowns intended to prevent cheating on exams, and several other African NORP countries implemented politically motivated shutdowns. Damage to several submarine cables, as well as planned maintenance to others, caused Internet disruptions across a number of countries during the third quarter DATE . Natural disasters, including wildfires and an earthquake, caused issues with connectivity, as did power outages in multiple countries. An acknowledged cyberattack resulted in a major US GPE university intentionally disconnecting from the Internet, while a number of other major Internet providers acknowledged problems on their networks without ever disclosing the root cause of those problems.

(Note that the Internet disruptions related to the Israel GPE /Palestine conflict are not covered in this post, as they began on October 7 DATE in Q4 of 2023 DATE . Disruptions related to this conflict are being tracked, with additional insights found on the Cloudflare ORG blog and @CloudflareRadar on X/Twitter.)

Government directed

Because the Internet has become a critical communications tool, Internet shutdowns are often used by governments as a means of controlling communication both within a country and with the outside world. These government-directed shutdowns are imposed for a variety of reasons, including during periods of civil unrest and protests around elections, and as a deterrent against cheating during exams.

Iraq GPE

As we have discussed in past summaries, Internet shutdowns are used by some governments in an attempt to prevent cheating on national high school or baccalaureate exams. These shutdowns have a nationwide impact, and it isn’t clear whether they are ultimately successful at mitigating cheating. As we have also discussed in the past, such shutdowns frequently occur in Iraq GPE , and that was certainly the case during the third quarter DATE , with rounds of shutdowns occurring during all three months DATE .

The first ORDINAL round of exam-related Internet shutdowns during the quarter DATE in Iraq GPE was a continuation of a set that started in June DATE , and continued on into July DATE , targeting cheating on 9th ORDINAL and 12th ORDINAL grade exams. On ten days DATE

between July 4 and July 17 DATE , Internet connectivity was shut down on AS203214 GPE ( HulumTele PERSON ), AS59588 ( ZAINAS-IQ ORG ), AS199739 FAC ( Earthlink LOC ), AS203735 ( Capacities-LTD ORG ), AS51684 (ASIACELL), and AS58322 NORP ( Halasat ORG ) in Iraq GPE (except for the Kurdistan Region GPE ) between 04:00 – 08:00 TIME local time ( 01:00 – 05:00 UTC TIME ).

During the second week of August DATE , several networks in the Kurdistan GPE region of Iraq GPE again implemented daily DATE exam-related Internet shutdowns due to a second ORDINAL round of exams for 12th ORDINAL grade students. These shutdowns took place between 06:00 – 08:00 TIME local time ( 03:00 – 05:00 UTC TIME ), and impacted AS21277 PERSON ( Newroz Telecom ORG ), AS48492 (IQ-Online), and AS59625 PRODUCT ( KorekTel PERSON ) from August 6-13 DATE . These two hour TIME shutdowns were similar to those seen in the region in June DATE .

A second ORDINAL round of 9th ORDINAL grade exams in August DATE drove a week DATE of Internet shutdowns across Iraq GPE (except the Kurdistan NORP region) between August 21 and August 29 DATE . Connectivity was shut down between 04:00 – 08:00 TIME local time ( 01:00 – 05:00 UTC TIME ) across the same networks impacted by the shutdowns implemented in July DATE .

Following the second ORDINAL round of 9th ORDINAL grade exams in August DATE , the second ORDINAL round of 12th ORDINAL grade exams in Iraq GPE (except the Kurdistan NORP region) occurred in September DATE , and with these exams, came yet another round of Internet shutdowns. Impacting the same set of network providers as the previous two months DATE , these shutdowns occurred between September 17-30 DATE . However, while they started at the same time ( 04:00 local time TIME , 01:00 UTC TIME ), they were shorter than previous rounds, ending an hour earlier TIME ( 07:00 TIME local time, 04:00 UTC TIME ).

Senegal GPE

On July 31 DATE , following the arrest of the Senegalese NORP opposition leader, the Senegalese Ministry of Communication, Telecommunications ORG and the Digital Economy once again ordered the disconnection of mobile Internet connectivity in Senegal GPE as shown in the communiqué below. These disruptions to mobile Internet access were visible on two CARDINAL of the four CARDINAL network providers within the country: AS37196 (Sudatel Senegal) and AS37649 PRODUCT ( Tigo/Free ORG ).

As shown in the graphs below, the shutdowns began mid-morning TIME local time, generally between 08:00 and 10:00 TIME , from July 31 through August 5 DATE , and ended early the next morning TIME , generally between midnight and 02:00 TIME . The final shutdown on August 5 DATE was an exception, ending at 22:00 TIME local time on both networks. ( Senegal GPE is UTC+0, so the local times are the same as UTC.)

Ethiopia GPE

Following days DATE of clashes between the federal military and local militia, mobile Internet connectivity was shut down in Amhara GPE , Ethiopia GPE . Cloudflare saw traffic to the region drop around 21:00 TIME local time ( 18:00 UTC TIME ) on August 2 DATE . This is the second ORDINAL time that authorities have shut down mobile Internet connectivity in Amhara GPE in 2023 DATE — the first ORDINAL time was on April 6 DATE after protests broke out following the federal government’s move to disband regional security forces. (Note that the country is no stranger to Internet shutdowns, as they have taken such action multiple times over the last several years DATE .) Despite calls to restore connectivity, mobile Internet remained unavailable through the end of the third quarter DATE , as seen in the figure below.

Gabon

On August 26 DATE , following contentious presidential elections in Gabon GPE , Internet connectivity was shut down in order to "prevent the spread of calls for violence". As shown in the figure below, traffic began to fall just before 17:00 TIME local time ( 16:00 UTC TIME ), and remained at zero CARDINAL through approximately 07:30 local time ( 06:30 UTC TIME ) on August 30 DATE . Connectivity was restored hours TIME after military officers seized power in the country, placing President Ali Bongo PERSON under house arrest and naming a new leader after the country’s election body announced Bongo ORG had won a third ORDINAL term.

Cable cuts

Cameroon LOC

On July 7 DATE , an X/Twitter post from Cameroon Telecommunications ORG alerted subscribers to disruptions to voice and data services, with a subsequent post nearly six hours TIME later noting that services had been re-established. Although these posts did not provide details on the cause of the disruption, a Facebook ORG post from the operator included an attached communiqué explaining that “The optical fibre has been severed by road maintenance operations, causing major disruptions in the delivery of our services.” The figure below shows the impact of this fiber damage, with traffic from AS15964 ( CAMNET-AS ORG ) dropping sharply around 11:30 TIME local time ( 10:30 UTC TIME ), and returning to expected levels by 18:00 TIME local time ( 17:00 UTC TIME ).

Liberia GPE

Damage to the Africa Coast LOC to Europe LOC (ACE) submarine cable disrupted Internet connectivity in Liberia GPE on July 28 DATE . A Facebook post from the Liberia Telecommunications Authority ORG ( LTA ORG ) noted “ The Liberia Telecommunications Authority(LTA ORG ) announces the temporary interruption of all nationwide Internet services due to the breakdown of the Africa Coast LOC to Europe Cable in Ivory Coast LOC .” and also highlighted that the ACE ORG cable serves as the “sole source of internet connectivity between Europe LOC and Liberia GPE ”. The figure below shows a near complete loss of traffic starting at 13:00 TIME local time ( 13:00 UTC TIME ) and gradually recovering over the next several hours TIME , returning to expected levels by 17:00 TIME local time ( 17:00 UTC TIME ).

Togo GPE , Benin GPE , Namibia GPE , and the Republic of Congo GPE ( Brazzaville GPE )

On August 6 DATE , the West African Cable System ORG (WACS) and the South Atlantic 3 LOC (SAT–3) undersea cables were damaged by an undersea landslide in the Congo Canyon LOC , located at the mouth of the Congo River LOC . The damage to the cables impacted Internet connectivity in Togo GPE , Benin GPE , Namibia GPE , and the Republic of Congo GPE ( Brazzaville GPE ). Social media posts from Telecom Namibia ORG and Canalbox Congo GPE alerted subscribers that connectivity would be impacted as a result of the damage to the cables.

Cable repair ship CS Leon Thevenin PERSON was called upon to perform repairs, but it took several weeks DATE for it to arrive at the site of the damage, and then additional time to perform the repairs, which were reportedly completed on September 6 DATE . Network operators in impacted countries were able to shift some traffic to alternate cables, such as Google ORG ’s Equiano PERSON cable, which went live in February 2023 DATE .

As such, the graphs below illustrate that there was not a complete loss of traffic for impacted countries. To that end, traffic in Togo NORP appeared to recover several weeks DATE before the cable repairs were completed. The full impact is harder to see in the graphs for Benin GPE , Namibia GPE , and the Republic of Congo GPE ( Brazzaville GPE ) because the selected timeframe is long enough to force data aggregation at a daily DATE level, but it is clearly visible in graphs covering shorter periods of time (with data aggregation at an hourly TIME level) during the weeks DATE after the cable cut occurred.

South Sudan GPE

Highlighting the interconnected nature of the Internet, fiber cuts in Uganda GPE caused a brief Internet disruption for customers on MTN GPE South Sudan (AS37594) on August 14 DATE , occurring between 13:00 – 15:00 TIME local time ( 11:00 – 13:00 UTC TIME ), and impacting an estimated 438,000 CARDINAL users. An X/Twitter post from the provider that afternoon TIME told subscribers “We sincerely apologize for the network issues experienced over the last couple of hours DATE . It was due to multiple fiber cuts in Uganda GPE .”

Cyberattack

University of Michigan ORG

On August 27 DATE , a “significant security concern” led the University of Michigan ORG to shut down the Internet on the Ann Arbor GPE , Flint GPE and Dearborn GPE campuses. Although the shutdown occurred at the start of the new school year DATE , classes continued as scheduled, but an announcement posted by the University ORG detailed the impact of disconnecting from the Internet, including potential delays in financial aid refunds and the unavailability of certain campus systems. The impact of the disconnection can be seen in the figure below, appearing as a significant drop in traffic starting just before 14:00 TIME local time ( 18:00 UTC TIME ) on August 27 DATE , and lasting until just after 08:00 TIME local time ( 12:00 UTC TIME ) on August 30 DATE on AS36375 (UMICH-AS-5), the primary autonomous system used by the University of Michigan ORG .

Fire

Lahaina GPE , Hawaii GPE

In early August DATE , a series of wildfires broke out in the state of Hawaii GPE , predominantly on the island of Maui LOC . The town of Lahaina GPE was one of the hardest hit, with the fires killing nearly 100 CARDINAL people, as well as destroying homes, businesses, and infrastructure, causing power outages and disrupting Internet connectivity. The graph below shows traffic to Cloudflare ORG from Lahaina GPE dropping to near zero CARDINAL around 21:00 TIME local time on August 7 DATE ( 07:00 UTC TIME on August DATE 8), and remaining at minimal levels through August 30 DATE . Some recovery of Internet traffic can be seen through the end of September DATE as cleanup and repairs progressed, and as wireless operators deployed temporary network assets in an effort to restore some service capacity.

Earthquake

Morocco GPE

At 23:11 ORG local time on September 8 DATE ( 22:11 UTC PERSON ), a magnitude 6.8 CARDINAL earthquake occurred in Morocco GPE , centered 79 kilometers QUANTITY ( 49 miles QUANTITY ) southwest of Marrakesh GPE . Nearly 3,000 CARDINAL deaths were reported as a result of the quake, and significant damage was reported, including the collapse of schools, houses, and historic buildings. Power outages and infrastructure damage also impacted Internet connectivity in the region, leading to largely localized disruptions.

The country-level graph below shows a nominal loss of traffic in Morocco GPE after the earthquake, remaining slightly lower than expected for approximately four days DATE . However, the impacts are more evident at a regional level, with the earthquake causing an immediate 64% PERCENT drop in traffic in Marrkesh-Safi GPE , a 64% PERCENT loss in Souss-Massa GPE , and a 49% PERCENT decline in Casablanca-Settat ORG . Peak traffic levels in these regions remained slightly lower than those seen in previous weeks DATE for several days DATE after the earthquake occurred.

Power outages

Curaçao GPE

On July 27 DATE , a malfunction at a major Aqualectra Utility ORG power distribution center resulted in 70% PERCENT of neighborhoods in Curaçao GPE losing power. The power outage resulted in an island-wide Internet disruption. As seen in the graph below, Internet traffic fell sharply at around 12:30 TIME local time ( 16:30 UTC TIME ), remaining largely flat for approximately five hours TIME before starting to recover around 17:30 TIME local time ( 21:30 UTC TIME ). The start of the recovery aligns with the timing of a Facebook ORG post made at 18:00 TIME local time by Aqualectra Utility ORG noting that “ 55% PERCENT of Curaçao ORG ’s power supply has been restored.” The ongoing traffic increase is in line with additional neighborhoods having power restored, with traffic returning to expected levels by around 22:00 TIME local time ( 2:00 UTC TIME on July 28 DATE ).

Brazil GPE

A widespread power outage in Brazil GPE starting at 08:30 TIME local time ( 11:30 UTC TIME ) on August 15 DATE resulted in a nominal disruption to Internet traffic within the country. Although the power outage represented a loss of approximately 27% PERCENT of the total electric load at the time it occurred, the impact to the country’s Internet traffic was much lower, as seen in the graph below. Traffic returned to expected levels by around 11:30 TIME local time ( 14:30 UTC TIME ).

Kenya GPE

A “system disturbance” at 21:45 TIME local time ( 18:45 UTC TIME ) on August 25 DATE led to “loss of bulk power supply to various parts of the country” in Kenya GPE , according to an X/Twitter post from Kenya Power ORG . The impact of the power outage is visible in the graph below, with traffic dropping as power is lost. Subsequent updates from Kenya Power ORG on August 26 DATE ( 1 CARDINAL , 2 CARDINAL , 3 CARDINAL ) highlighted the progress made in restoring electricity across the country. Internet traffic from the country returned to expected levels by 03:00 TIME on August 27 DATE ( 00:00 UTC TIME ).

French NORP Guiana

An 11-hour TIME Internet disruption in French NORP

Guiana PERSON on August 27 DATE was the result of a power outage caused by “a problem that occurred at the energy evacuation station which connects Petit-Saut ORG to the Kourou-Saint-Laurent line”. The power outage caused a nationwide drop in Internet traffic between 11:00 TIME local time ( 14:00 UTC TIME ) and 22:00 TIME local time ( 01:00 UTC TIME on August 28 DATE ), visible in the graph below.

Tunisia GPE

A fire at the Tunisian Company of Electricity and Gas ORG power station in Rades GPE , Ben Arous PERSON Governorate caused a widespread power outage in Tunisia GPE , resulting in an Internet disruption starting at 01:00 TIME local time ( 00:00 UTC TIME ) on September 20 DATE . Traffic remained lower than expected for approximately five hours TIME , as shown in the graph below, in line with a published report that noted “The unexpected outage lasted for over four hours TIME in some areas of the country.”

Barbados GPE

A September 21 DATE Facebook post from The Barbados Light & Power Company Limited ORG noted that the company was aware of an outage affecting customers, and that they were “working to promptly and safely restore power in the shortest time possible.” This outage resulted in a significant drop in Internet traffic from the country starting at 11:30 TIME local time ( 15:30 UTC TIME ). A subsequent Facebook ORG post from the utility company at 20:00 TIME local time ( 00:00 UTC TIME on September 22 DATE ) noted that power had been restored to all customers. Ahead of full power restoration, Internet traffic had returned to expected levels around 17:00 TIME local time ( 21:00 UTC TIME ).

Maintenance

Guinea

La Guinéenne de la Large Bande FAC , also known as GUILAB ORG , is the company responsible for managing the capacity allocated to the country of Guinea GPE on the Africa Coast LOC to Europe LOC (ACE) submarine cable. According to a (translation of the) communiqué posted by the company on Facebook ORG , planned maintenance on the cable would be taking place between 22:00 TIME on July 14 and 06:18 CARDINAL "sharp" on July 15 DATE (22:00 on July 14 DATE and 06:18 CARDINAL on July 15 UTC DATE ). This maintenance resulted in a complete Internet outage in Guinea GPE , as seen in the graph below. It appears that the ACE ORG submarine cable is Guinea GPE ’s sole international Internet connection, with no other backup submarine or terrestrial connectivity.

Palau GPE

Just a few days later DATE , planned maintenance to another submarine cable took Palau GPE , an island country in the western Pacific LOC , completely offline for several days DATE . According to a press release from the Palau National Communications Corporation ORG (PNCC) posted to their Facebook ORG page, “BSCC ( Belau Submarine Cable Corporation ORG ) has been notified that an emergency repair will be undertaken on the SEA LOC US GPE cable network in Guam GPE from Tuesday, July 18th DATE

7:00 a.m. TIME

Palau GPE time, and expected to be completed 5:00 p.m. TIME

Saturday, July 22nd DATE . … For safety reasons, repairs can only be undertaken when the cable is not powered. Since BSCC ORG ’s Palau Cable Network ORG No 1 connects to SEA LOC US GPE for onward transport to Guam GPE , BSCC will be unable to provide service for the duration of the repair. BSCC will be unable to provide any international connectivity for Palau GPE . The only available international connection will be via PNCC satellite connection, which will provide limited capacity compared to normal cable service.”

The graph below shows that Cloudflare ORG did not see any appreciable traffic from Palau GPE ’s backup satellite connection during the duration of the repairs, as traffic dropped to zero CARDINAL at 07:00 TIME local time on July 18 DATE ( 22:00 UTC TIME on July 17 DATE ), and remained there until around 18:00 TIME local time on July 21 DATE ( 09:00 UTC TIME ), as the repairs were completed earlier than expected. A PNCC press release confirmed this early completion, noting “ PNCC PERSON is pleased to inform the public that Internet and Mobile Data ORG services for our customers have been restored, due to the early completion today DATE of the emergency repairs on the SEA LOC US Submarine Cable System ORG , our main off-island internet connection.”

Unspecified issues

Spectrum (Charter Communications)

At 14:03 Eastern Time TIME ( 18:03 UTC TIME ) on August 17 DATE , the X/Twitter support account for Spectrum ORG , a brand of US GPE -based Internet service provider Charter Communications ORG , posted a statement that noted “We are aware of an outage affecting customers in Alabama GPE , Georgia GPE and Tennessee GPE . We apologize for the inconvenience and are working to resolve as quickly as possible. Thank you.” The graphs below show the varied impacts to traffic seen from Spectrum ( AS20115 GPE ) across the listed states, as well as Texas GPE , which wasn’t initially cited by Spectrum as having an issue, though customers quickly called it out.

A near complete outage was observed in Tennessee GPE between 12:30 – 14:00 TIME local time ( 17:30 – 19:00 UTC TIME ), while a brief drop in traffic at 12:00 TIME local time ( 17:00 UTC TIME ) and quick recovery ahead of another drop at 13:30 TIME local time ( 18:30 UTC TIME ) was seen in Alabama GPE . Georgia GPE also saw an initial drop in traffic at 13:00 TIME local time ( 17:00 UTC TIME ) ahead of a larger fall at 14:30 TIME local time ( 18:30 UTC TIME ), while traffic from Texas GPE only experienced a decline at 13:30 TIME local time ( 18:30 UTC TIME ). Traffic volumes from all four CARDINAL impacted states recovered within several hours TIME approximately three hours TIME after the initial post, Spectrum’s support account stated “We have received confirmation repairs have been completed and services have been restored to affected customers in the Alabama GPE , Georgia GPE and Tennessee GPE area.”

Starlink ORG

On September 12 DATE , satellite Internet service provider SpaceX Starlink PERSON experienced a brief but complete outage. The graph below shows traffic from AS14593 ( SPACEX-STARLINK ORG ) dropping at 23:15 UTC TIME , but quickly recovering, returning to normal within 90 minutes TIME . At 00:33 UTC TIME on September 13 DATE , Starlink ORG shared an X/Twitter post stating “ Starlink ORG is currently in a network outage, and we are actively implementing a solution. We appreciate your patience, we’ll share an update once this issue is resolved” and just over an hour later TIME , posted “The network issue has been fully resolved”.

Sky UK GPE

During the evening TIME (UTC) of September 19 DATE , numerous complaints could be found on social media about a nationwide outage across the United Kingdom GPE on Sky Broadband (AS5607). A sharp drop in traffic from Sky Broadband ORG can be seen in the graph below starting at 21:00 UTC TIME , but a full outage did not appear to have taken place. Traffic volumes below expected levels lasted until approximately 01:00 UTC TIME on September 20 DATE . While the issue was acknowledged by Sky ORG ’s support account on X/Twitter ORG , no root cause for the disruption was ever provided.

Conclusion

As we’ve noted in past quarterly DATE summaries, this report is intended as a summary overview of observed disruptions, and not an exhaustive or complete list of issues that have occurred during the quarter DATE . Some disruptions not covered here were visible in our data, but never acknowledged by the impacted provider, while others were reported by industry colleagues based on their measurement methodologies, but not clearly obvious in our traffic graphs.

As we indicated above, the Cloudflare Radar Outage Center PRODUCT now includes information on observed traffic anomalies as well as verified outages. Interested users can subscribe to notifications for both anomalies and outages — our blog post includes more information on how to do so.

Visit Cloudflare Radar PERSON for additional insights around Internet disruptions. Follow us on social media at @CloudflareRadar (Twitter), cloudflare.social/@radar ( Mastodon PERSON ), and radar.cloudflare.com (Bluesky), or contact us via email.

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