Liquid Telecom, one of Zimbabwe’s largest Internet Access Provider (IAP) has opened up on rumors that it was forced to switch off the internet during the national #ShutdownZimbabwe protests, which were staged on the 6th of July.
Speaking to TechnoMag in confidence, a liquid Telecom executive said its not that simple for government to simply issue an emergence order to switch off the internet for few hours and back on again without following proper standard procedure and legal reasons.
“The government is empowered through law to control internet access through the access to information and interception act, but that is not a simple process of hitting an on and off switch button”,
said the executive.
The Liquid Telecom executive said constricting or restricting certain traffic determines a specific server be set and readily installed for such an operation if bandwidth or access to certain website is to be restricted.
While it is not debatable that the internet was obviously constricted and awkwardly slow across many networks, Liquid Telecom, which carries Econet Wireless Zimbabwe with over 7 million active data subscribers and their ISP, ZOL Zimbabwe with thousands of fixed data subscribers also had some serious connectivity issues during the hour.
TelOne, one of the biggest ISPs in Zimbabwe was quick to “admit it had a glitch” during the period, which by default kills any interests to investigate, although many believe that it is much easier to instruct the state owned telecoms giant to switch off the internet than the private players.[tweetthis]Did government order Liquid Telecom as well to switch off the internet, What do you think? #ShutDownZimbabwe [/tweetthis]
Telecel Zimbabwe and NetOne are officially state controlled mobile network operators, who can not also be asked to divulge what could have occurred in the back ground for obvious reasons.
The question that has boggled many is just how easy could it have been for government to instruct Liquid Telecom as well to switch off the internet , at the same time, a move which the ICT minister has already vehemently denied .
Another Liquid Telecom executive said while they may not have acknowledged a downtime during the two hours, they noticed a huge surge in internet usage, which may have caused intermittent connectivity, a common effect of sudden traffic increase as millions desperately took it on Twitter and Whatsapp to communicate.
While the same event occurred while I was in China, a friend told me that internet access has been blocked in Zimbabwe, though strange enough the message was sent using Whatsapp, I simply responded that if I could still receive the messages and respond, then it was laughable to speak of a ban.
So technically, can our ISPs block Whatsapp access or certain servers? In theory it’s a simple yes while technically it takes proper written justification especially when it includes national security issues according to the interception of information act which we may need to fully look into separately.
Besides the legal process involved , we have also established that most ISPs in Zimbabwe are not technically capable of blocking specific port numbers or multiple dynamic IP addresses and may easily block the whole internet as it takes certain dedicated servers, while its easier to simply block access to a specific domain name through an access list in router configurations for smaller networks.