Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal, which claimed the lives of at least 4,000 victims and injured many more, took a toll on the country’s Internet connectivity, which was already one of the least developed in the region. A recent evaluation of Internet infrastructure in South Asia commissioned by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) classified Nepal’s international connectivity as ‘weak’ and its fixed and mobile infrastructure as ‘limited’.
While the loss of Internet connectivity pales in comparison to the loss of life, the ability to communicate both domestically and internationally will be crucial in coming days for the coordination of relief efforts already underway. Innovative services from Facebook and Google to facilitate communicating the status of those affected by the massive earthquake would be largely useless if Nepal had been knocked entirely offline. In fact, Nepal’s international links generally survived the earthquake, however last mile connectivity is another matter.
As we reported on Saturday, we began seeing severe Internet outages and instabilities immediately following the earthquake at 6:11 UTC. Below is a timeline of outages through today.
Link to China
Nepal, as well as Bhutan, are both South Asian landlocked countries wedged between India and China that are dependent on India for a number of services including telecommunications. As a result, each country has been courting Chinese engagement that would provide a redundant source of Internet connectivity. Nepal has been seeking Internet connectivity through China for some time, however, as of today, we have yet to observe any Internet paths linking Nepal to the global Internet via China.
As stated above, Nepal’s international Internet links through India have so far stayed up through the earthquake and its aftermath. The degradation of Internet services in Nepal was primarily due to significant damage in the last mile of infrastructure. Had the international links to India gone down as well, then establishing redundant links to China would undoubtedly be at the forefront of present discussions about the resiliency of the Nepali Internet – not to mention stoking the rivalry between India and China for influence in Nepal. In this case, international connectivity matters little if people can’t connect to their local service provider.
A regional Asian Internet grid
Abu Saaed Khan of LIRNEasia was in Nepal just a few weeks ago presenting on the status of international connectivity in Nepal and proposing the adoption of an Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway — an Asian network that would achieve greater regional Internet resiliency by “exploiting every right-of-way for national and cross-border optical fiber cable (OFC) networks.” It’s time to take proposals like these more seriously to really improve Internet connectivity in places like Nepal.
About the Author
Doug Madory is a Director of Internet Analysis at Dyn where he works on Internet infrastructure analysis projects. Doug has a special interest in mapping the logical Internet to the physical lines that connect it together, with a special interest on submarine cables.Follow on Twitter More Content by Doug Madory