Tension in Turkey

June 1, 2013 Jim Cowie
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We’ve been asked all day to comment on the potential for Internet shutdowns in Turkey.    At this point, Renesys observes no significant changes in Turkey’s Internet routing, no significant outages affecting the routing of Turkey’s networks, no reduction in the number of inbound active measurements to Turkish hosts within the country from our infrastructure all over the world, and no changes in the characteristic latencies experienced reaching Turkish hosts.We examined the reachability of social networking sites from our measurement infrastructure within Turkey, and found nothing unusual. We examined the 72-hour history of measurements from inside Turkey to these sites, and found no change in normal behavior.In short: Turkey’s Internet does not appear to have changed significantly in reaction to the current protest events.Latencies measured from Istanbul to Facebook; no changes in reachability or delayLatencies measured from Istanbul to Facebook; no changes in reachability or delay

 

Now, we can’t rule out the possibility of local slowdowns, and we don’t have direct measurements of Turkish transit in each neighborhood. It may be the case that some local Internet users are experiencing delays on oversubscribed DSL lines or mobile Internet connections.   Just as in Boston during the Marathon bombings, “flash crowds” can put a strain on the last mile Internet infrastructure.

We know that Turkish consumers are succeeding in reaching the outside world in greater numbers than ever today, if only from the shape of the daily curves in the Google Transparency Traffic Report for Turkey. Latencies from Istanbul to Facebook

To longtime Turkey-watchers, this won’t be too surprising. Turkey’s Internet is well-developed and relatively diverse at the international frontier, with 21 different autonomous systems connected directly to international providers.    That places Turkey in our “low, but non-negligible” risk category for nationwide Internet disconnection, on par with nations like Costa Rica, Vietnam, and Georgia.    The incumbent, Turk Telekom, does maintain an estimated 98% of the domestic Internet on-net, largely because of its long-term reluctance to peer with competing local providers within Turkey, preferring to sell them domestic transit instead.   But enough of those competing providers now maintain their own international connectivity that they could survive for some time, albeit in a more fragile form, without Turk Telekom’s European transit.

As an example, here’s a concrete illustration of how the Turkish banking industry reaches international Internet markets (based on what we see in the Internet routing tables today; click to view details). Turkish banking industry

Banks are great companies to look at, when you’re examining the diversity of interconnection available in a market.   Banks know exactly how dangerous it is to rely on a single provider, and they seek out alternatives to use as part of a backup strategy, should their primary ISP fail.    Here you can see lots of banks using Turk Telekom, but also lots of “multihomed” reliance on Tellcom (Superonline, with routes on Interroute’s network through Bulgaria and Hungary) and ISNET, a company formed specifically to provide the Turkiye Is Bankasi financial conglomerate with robust telecommunications, including satellite connectivity.    This is not the failure-prone, limited-diversity international networking you see in Syria or Lebanon; this is a fairly rich national ecosystem with multiple competing providers providing multiple paths out of the country: terrestrial, submarine, and satellite.

There’s another, more strategic reason why wholesale Internet disconnections are pretty unlikely in Turkey.   Turkey’s international telecommunications networks play a key role in interconnecting Syria, Iraq, Iran, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and the Gulf States to the greater Internet.   Turkey’s domestic Internet market is large, but the international market whose consumers could be reached by Turkish-hosted content is even larger.  Turkey finds itself at a decision point today: take the necessary steps to encourage large content providers to host Middle Eastern content in Turkey, and reap the benefits of becoming the regional Internet hub, or let that opportunity pass.    Content hosting companies are looking for a friendly regulatory environment, free of legal challenges to their content, and free of the threats of nationwide Internet disconnection.

Neighboring Bulgaria has made these arguments very successfully, and as a result is enjoying incredible growth of their Internet hosting industry.   The emergence of a significant Internet exchange in Dubai may indicate that Turkey’s bid to be an Internet hub needs to accelerate, or the race to be the regional hub may be lost for good.    That’s why we don’t expect to see Internet disconnection playing a significant role in the events that are unfolding in Turkey — there’s simply too much to lose.

 

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About the Author

Jim Cowie

Jim Cowie is the Chief Scientist at Dyn. Previously, Jim was the founder and CTO of Renesys, the Internet Intelligence Authority, which Dyn acquired in 2014.

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