London-based Virtual Private Network (VPN) service Top10VPN has estimated that internet disruptions in India cost $2.77 billion in 2020. The service, in its annual report on the global cost of internet shutdowns, said India shutdown the internet for over 8,900 hours or for 372 days, and these impacted 10.3 million people.
As part of its report, social media shutdowns, internet blackouts, and severe throttling, which including 2G speeds “that renders modern websites and apps functionally unusable” were all considered internet shutdowns by Top10VPN. Its estimates for India accounts for the 2G internet access in Jammu & Kashmir. The union territory has been under an internet blackout since August 2019; mobile internet services were resumed in March, but only at restricted 2G speeds. It was only in August 2020 that 4G was restored in two districts — Udhampur and Ganderbal — on a trial basis.
Since report largely focused on large region-wide shutdown, it excludes majority of the “short blackouts” in India which were highly-targeted, affecting groups of villages or individual city district. It’s unclear if hyper-local internet shutdowns, such as the ones that was imposed in New Delhi in February 2020, or those routinely imposed in the districts of Kashmir valley are accounted for.
The report said that Internet blackouts included partial blackouts on specific Internet Service Providers. Social media shutdowns were counted when access to “popular social media platforms” such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube was blocked.
Top10VPN’s split of shutdowns in India is:
- Internet blackouts: 1,655 hours
- Bandwidth throttling: 7,272 hours
- Total cost of restrictions: $2,779.3 million
A note on the methodology:
How was the cost calculated? The calculations were made based on the COST tool developed by Netblocks and the Internet Society. According to Netblocks’s website, the Cost of Shutdown Tool (COST) “estimates economic cost of internet shutdowns, mobile data blackouts and social media restrictions using thousands of regional indicators from the World Bank, ITU, Eurostat and U.S. Census”.
Source: Top10VPN also said that the shutdown nature, duration, and severity, was sourced from Netblocks, IODA, as well as SFLC.in’s Internet Shutdown Tracker, which is the most consistent record of internet disruptions in India in the past few years. “Additional open-sourced information used came from Access Now and reputable news reports,” it said.
Global shutdowns: durations and cost
Internet shutdowns globally totaling over 27,000 hours or over 1100 days in 2020 cost $4.01 billion economic losses. The shutdowns impacted 268 million people. Globally, the split between different kinds of restrictions were:
- Internet blackouts: 10,693 hours
- Internet throttling: 10,920 hours
- Social media shutdowns: 5,552 hours
The following countries were the top five that shutown internet, cut off social media services, or throttled speeds such that internet usage became ineffective:
- Myanmar: Internet was blacked out for a total of 5,160 hours and bandwidth was throttled for 3,648 hours; internet was blocked in China and Rakhine regions until August, and thereafter throttled, Top10VPN said.
- Chad: Internet blacked out for 672 hours, social media shutdown for 3,936 hours; both at the cost of $23.1 million.
- Ethiopia: Internet blacked out for 1,536 hours at the cost of $111.3 million.
- Azerbaijan: Social media — Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter — blocked for over 45 days or 1,128 hours to be exact.
- Yemen: Internet was blacked out for 912 hours, costing the country an estimated $236.8 million.
Read the full report here.