Mobile internet disrupted in Iran amid Khuzestan water protests

Network data from NetBlocks confirm a significant regional disruption to mobile internet service in Iran beginning Thursday 15 July 2021, ongoing almost a week later as of Wednesday 21 July 2021.

The incident comes amid major protests against water shortages in cities across the southwestern Khuzestan province including Ahvaz, Ramhormoz and Susangerd, experienced as a severe slowing of internet service or near-total internet shutdown that is likely to limit the public’s ability to express political discontent or communicate with each other and the outside world.

Cellular data analysis metrics corroborate widespread user reports of cellular network disruptions, consistent with a regional internet shutdown intended to control protests. Fixed-line and wifi connectivity remains available in the area although users in Khuzestan are understood to be highly dependent on mobile data services. The incident is estimated to have knocked out approximately 3%-4% of Iran’s national mobile data connectivity.

This class of internet disruption affects connectivity at the cellular network layer and cannot generally be worked around with the use of circumvention software or VPNs. Hence, it can severely limit access to information without the implementation of a total or national network blackout.

Recent disruptions and shutdowns in Iran

Iran has faced a series of network disruptions since 2019, with some attributed to external factors, and others to state information controls or targeted internet shutdowns. NetBlocks investigations have helped identify the root causes of these network outages.

In November 2019, Iran shut down internet access nationally amid widespread public protests. In that instance, users gradually regained access as connectivity was selectively brought back after a week of near-total outages.

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NetBlocks diffscans, which map the IP address space of a country in real time, show internet connectivity levels and corresponding outages. Purposeful internet outages may have a distinct network pattern used by NetBlocks to determine and attribute the root cause of an outage, a process known as attribution which follows detection and classification stages.

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