Internet shutdown involves intentionally disrupting or blocking internet access in an attempt to control what people see, say or do. Such shutdowns can be done through throttling, when connectivity speeds are reduced to such a slow pace it’s almost impossible for pages to load. It’s also done by working with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to cut off web access altogether.
Governments across the world shutting down the internet isn’t a new concept. More often than not, internet shutdowns are a means to control the views and actions of people for various reasons. They limit a citizen’s ability to access information and express themselves freely. Internet shutdowns disrupt social life and have immediate and widespread effect to the economy.
Internet blackouts can occur at a localized or even national level, where an entire country has its telecommunications cut off. They are divided into two categories.
- Partial shutdown: In this case, the government could instruct internet service providers (ISP) to restrict or block traffic to various sites. This is similar to what a lot of corporate offices do with firewalls. The most commonly affected platforms of a partial shutdown are social media sites
- Full shutdown: In this case, the government directs the ISPs in the country to shut down the internet, thereby rendering internet-dependent services inaccessible and effectively unusable. Also known as internet blackout, all internet services are entirely stopped, including mobile data services and broadband carriers
Reasons internet shutdowns
Some common reasons given for internet shutdowns:
- For security reasons and to maintain peace – such as to curb attacks during national holidays
- To disrupt political unrest – enforced during protests
- To help with logistical matters – such as preventing students from cheating in exams
- To discourage access to “foreign propaganda”
- To penalize companies, for example, messaging services companies
- Social media blackouts are also commonly used during elections to minimize public discourse, stifle dissent and weaken minority groups
How to bypass internet shutdowns
In case of an internet shutdown, here are some of the ways you can be able to bypass the blackout and have uninterrupted access the internet.
1. Mobile Radio Power
You can access the internet by following these steps.
- On your Android phone, turn on mobile data
- The turn flight mode (airplane mode) on. Mobile data will switch off
- Go to dial pad and press *#*#4636#*#*
- A display screen will pop up
- Tap on ‘Phone information’
- Scroll down to ‘Mobile Radio Power’ and turn it on
- Now you can access the internet without any restrictions
2. Use VPN
VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a secure portal between two or more devices which provides an encrypted connection from your device to the internet. It creates a secure portal between devices, providing an encrypted connection to the internet no matter where you are. When you use a VPN, your computer or phone is connected to a VPN’s server, located overseas, and all your browsing traffic is proxied through it.
The VPN server in this case sends your data to the website you want to visit and essentially shields your traffic from your ISP. This hides your IP address and enables you to visit websites that were restricted before, as you’re “tricking” your ISP into thinking you’re somewhere else. VPNs are regarded as the easiest and safest way to bypass internet shutdowns.