Progress as Venezuela restores power but 27% remain offline

140 hours after the onset of a nationwide electricity blackout, 73% of Venezuela’s telecommunication infrastructure has been restored according to connectivity data from the NetBlocks internet observatory.

The recovery follows a series of setbacks likely caused by load issues in the power grid following the failure of the Simón Bolívar Hydroelectric Plant at Guri Dam, which supplies 80% of Venezuela’s energy. The recovery continues to see ups and downs, attributed to engineering work at electrical substations and equipment resets.

The initial blackout on Thursday, 7 March knocked 98% of Venezuela’s connections offline. A second major outage on Saturday, 8 March saw the country’s connectivity hover at the 4% mark until mid-Sunday. Through the working week recovery has picked up pace to the present, where 27% of Venezuela’s connections remain unreachable.

Eastern regions were intermittently reconnected hours after the blackout, while Caracas has started to see a stronger recovery. NetBlocks temporospatial network visualizations show thata other regions have been less fortunate. Maracaibo remained largely disconnected through the entire period, or otherwise experienced only  brief, intermittent power supply:

The regions of Táchira and Mérida have had little to no connectivity or power since the initial outage:

Internet-scale network measurements indicate which regions have been affected and to what extent. During previous network and power outages, concerns were raised about attacks and military activity, and the risk of human rights violations perpetrated under the cover of darkness.

The current outages are the largest measured in 2019 in magnitude and extent, spanning across the capital and all population centers of Venezuela. Hospitals have reported failures and loss of life and the overall human impact to local communities remains unknown.

NetBlocks diffscans, which map the entire IP address space of a country in real time, show internet outages corresponding to power cuts in the region. Network measurements have proven to be an effective measure of disruption to Venezuela’s infrastructure through recent days.

Internet outages caused by electricity grid disruptions 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.

Venezuela experiences frequent power cuts, and Venezuela started power rationing and reduced its electricity consumption to about 14,000 megawatts at peak hours because of the economic crisis in 2018.

NetBlocks has previously observed and reported such outages including the multi-day Táchira blackout on the 2nd March. However the current nationwide outages are unprecedented in magnitude, extent and duration NetBlocks historic data suggest that incidents of this scale are vanishingly rare.

Update: 4:50 PM UTC -14 March 2019: Network connectivity across Venezuela has dropped to 73% following a series of new regional power outages reported in Tachira, Merida and Trujillo:

The NetBlocks Group is a civil society group working at the intersection of digital rights, cyber-security and internet governance. Independent and non-partisan, NetBlocks strives for an open and inclusive digital future for all.

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