Week in Review: June 23, 2017

by Jeanette Si

Nigeria Experiences Internet Outages as Major Internet Company Repairs Cable Fault 

MainOne, one of Nigeria’s main connectivity providers, announced on June 18 that one of its submarine cables had faulted and would be undergoing repairs for 14 days.

Though MainOne stated that it has “made available existing restoration capacity and has secured additional capacity to offer temporary relief to our customers,” the impact of this fault on its clients was still significant. On June 19, the first day of repairs, many Internet service providers using MainOne’s cables had to switch to backup cables, causing regions of Nigeria to be deprived of Internet access.

Funke Opeke, CEO of MainOne, said that this incident was “an event of Force Majeure, being beyond our control in the ordinary and normal course of business.” According to Opeke, this outage was the first of its kind within the company in seven years.

There are 85 mobile connections per 100 Nigerians. Find out more with our dashboard here

Egypt Expands Internet Filtering Efforts, Now Blocks at Least 101 Sites 

As part of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s intensified efforts to crack down on dissent, the government in Egypt has blocked at least 101 websites, including major news outlets and forums.

The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression reported that the government has also blocked access to known sites that could help netizens bypass Internet filtering, and that the filtered list sometimes changes depending on which ISP is used. This suggests that the filtering technique used is something implemented by the Internet companies at the behest of the government.

Last week, the ban had only encompassed 62 webpages, with the bulk of the list comprised of media sites, including some prominent overseas sites such as the Huffington Post and Medium.
Investigative Egyptian news sites, such as Daily News Egypt, were also blocked, despite the stated purpose of the block being to “eliminate fake news.”

Want the whole picture of the state of Egypt’s Internet? Try our dashboard here

Donald Trump Vows to Bring Broadband Internet to Rural America

In a June 20 speech given at Kirkwood College in Iowa, U.S. President Donald Trump stated that he will “be including a provision in [his] infrastructure proposal … to promote and foster, enhance broadband access for rural America.”

The president has set out plans to invest $200 billion into enhancing national infrastructure, an act which has prompted farm lobbies to push for broadband in rural areas. Due to their relative unprofitability compared to urban areas, rural areas have not been a priority for Internet service providers, and residents worry that this difference in Internet speeds may slow economic development.

Only 55 percent of rural residents have download speeds exceeding 25 megabits per second, while 94 percent of urban residents do.

"We have to make sure American farmers and their families, wherever they may be, wherever they may go, have the infrastructure projects that they need to compete and grow," said Trump. 

#NoToBlocking Hashtag Trends in Response to Palestinian Internet Controls

Palestinian activists began a social media movement on June 18 after the Palestinian Authority’s most recent Internet block targeting “news websites belonging to rival political groups.”

On June 12, the Palestinian Attorney General ordered Internet service providers in the West Bank to block access to 11 sites “affiliated with ex-Fatah leader Mahmoud Dahlan and Fatah's political rival, Hamas.” This number quickly grew to 22 by June 20.

Activists tweeted their concerns using the Arabic hashtag لا_للحجب# (#NoToBlocking), citing many reasons for their disapproval including the lack of transparency behind the government’s actions and the vague legal basis warranting this block. Other activists expressed their confidence in the strength of freedom of information in the social network age, saying that controls like this are antiquated and ineffective.

Only 54 percent of Palestinians are regularly online. See more with our Palestine dashboard here.