Kazakhstan leaders shut down Internet amid gas price protests
Internet service in Kazakhstan was disabled this week after thousands took to the streets to protest a steep rise in gas prices. Although the internet was partially restored on Wednesday, Netblocks and Cloudflare reported evidence of significant disruption. The two security companies reported that they observed internet shutdowns in the country on Tuesday evening after protests emerged in the western town of Zhanaozen. Netblocks has been tracking the disruptions since they began on Tuesday, finding that mobile services and some fixed lines were affected before there was a country-wide blackout around 5pm on Wednesday.
Netblocks stated that the incident was a rapid deployment of internet restrictions at a national scale, which resulted in an information vacuum inside and outside of the country. Netblocks also released graphs showing the disruption via telecommunications companies such as Kcell, Beeline, and Tele2 on Wednesday. Cloudflare reported that the largest mobile provider in the country, Kaz Telecom, was also affected during the blackout. An internet blackout of this scale could have unprecedented consequences as banks, businesses, and many other companies would struggle to operate. In Kazakhstan, mobile activity represents around 75% of internet traffic.
So What: Kazakhstan is a massive country, the size of the entire EU. And every corner of it is in crisis with protests out of control. It borders Russia and China and both have interests there. Neither will want an unstable Kazakhstan. China has spent over $20B there as part of its belt and road initiative and is very likely concerned about the influence Kazakhstan can have on its own people.
What’s Next: Expect energy production in Kazkhstan to decline. Expect bitcoin hashrates in the area to drop. Russian plans to invade Ukraine may now be on hold.
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Size Comparison Kazakhstan vs EU: