403 days of shutdown costs $934456...
The AmanaTech team has continued to monitor the status of the internet disruption in Bahrain which began on 23 June 2016. The shutdown continued for over one year in the village of Duraz until 30 July 2017 making it one of the worlds longest internet disruptions. Our investigation found that ISP’s were deliberately disrupting both fixed-line and mobile data services in the village between 7PM and 1AM everyday. We concluded that it is possible that the disruptions were a result of a Service Restriction Order (SRO) from the Bahrain Government.
The disruption was part of the systematic security siege of the village following protests that began on 20 June 2016 after the government revoked the nationality of prominent Shia cleric Sh. Isa Qassim. Protesters remained on the streets outside his home for almost one year until the Ministry of Interior (MoI) led an armed operation on 23 May 2017 to disperse the protests.
After precautionary monitoring, the AmanaTech team can now report that no disruption to fixed-line and mobile data services has been recorded in the village since 30 July 2017 officially marking the end of the shutdown. The team will continue to monitor the status of the internet for both service throttling and shutdowns.
The shutdown had been maintained by disabling cell towers and dropping approximately 90% of packets on fixed-line connections. A coalition of NGO’s sent a letter to the Bahrain Telecommunications Regulation Authority in August 2016 but have not received a response.
The internet was shutdown for a total of 403 days. Our economic investigation based on internet data subscription costs estimated that the shutdown cost consumers in Duraz over 900,000USD. Despite the nightly shutdown, ISPs forced residents to pay their monthly subscription costs in full for interrupted services. They threatened to impose significant fines if payments are delayed or if customers attempt to end their subscription. Our conservative estimate did not take into account the wider economic impact stemming from the shutdown which could be much higher.
The Internet shutdown in the Duraz severely disrupted the life for residents, in particular businesses that rely on the internet for needs such as processing payments. It placed a heavy burden on students and teachers as Bahrain’s education sector is increasingly internet reliant. Students were unable to register for university courses without use of the internet and families inside Duraz are unable to communicate with those outside the village. This particularly impacted those with accessibility needs who are unable or face serious difficulties commuting in and out of the village for an internet connection.