UPDATE June 28 11:47 UTC: Following another internet shutdown in Ethiopia which began on Tuesday 11 June and then again on Saturday 22 June after a reported Amhara coup attempt, access was restored on June 27, according to NetBlocks network measurement data.
Our original story, published June 19, follows.
On Tuesday 18 June Ethiopia’s internet service resumed after a week of blackouts and social media blocks. The country’s sole ISP has issued an apology for the disruptions, but failed to comment on the reason behind them.
Ethio Telecom, which is owned by the Ethiopian government and has a monopoly on telecommunications in the country, released a statement via Twitter yesterday, June 18, apologizing for the internet downtime that the country had faced for the past week.
“It is known that the internet service was interrupted intermittently throughout the country since June 10, 2019. We sincerely extend out apologies to our customers for the inconvenience occurred,” the tweet says.
However, Ethio Telecom made no reference to why the blackouts occurred. It is believed that the disruptions were a deliberate attempt to counter cheating during the national secondary school final exams.
The exams ended yesterday, coinciding with the reinstatement of national internet access. Ethiopian internet services have been shut down in previous years during the same week of national exams.
Ethio Telecom promised customers that it would be extending the validity period of unused mobile packages and premium unlimited mobile service, as well as exempting fixed broadband users of their monthly fee.
Many users replied to the announcement tweet complaining about the lack of pre-warning for the disruption to the service, while others wrote that they are still struggling to access messaging service Telegram.
The state-owned telecoms provider did little to address its customers’ concerns and complaints, instead opting to chastise a Twitter user who called the service “trash.”
Ethio Telecom’s official Twitter account said: “It is very sad that you call a ‘ trash’ your own public institution [sic] that has served the nation for the past 125 years regardless of its limitations. Be constructive.”
Internet monitoring organization NetBlocks first reported a total internet outage in Ethiopia on June 11 at 7:30am UTC, and found access to be intermittent for the following seven days.
During the blackouts SMS text messaging was also disabled and messaging apps WhatsApp and Telegram were blocked.
Ethiopia is considered “Not Free” according to Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net 2018 report, which says: “While Ethiopian citizens have become optimistic about the direction their country is heading, repressive laws that have enabled authoritarianism remain on the books, including laws designed to constrain freedom of expression and enable unchecked surveillance.”