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A proposal to stop African governments shutting down the internet

Internet Down
Internet Down

An AfriNIC proposal by Andrew Alston and Ben Roberts of Liquid Telecom and Fiona Asonga of TESPOK to tackle the recent spate of internet shutdowns instigated by African governments. The reasons behind the policy are:


Over the last few years we have seen more and more governments shutting down the free and open access to the internet in order to push political and other agendas.  These shutdowns have been shown to cause economic damage and hurt the citizens of the affected countries.

AfriNIC, the African Network Information Centre, is the governing body for the internet in Africa. They are responsible for the allocation and fair usage of internet resources on the continent. The resources consist of IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. A computer or device without an IP Address is not able to communicate with other devices. The policy centres around the control, allocation and withdrawal of IP addresses.

The submission states that over the past few years, governments have shut free and open access to the Internet to push political and other agendas. Governments across the continent have routinely restricted citizens rights to use social media, recent examples include Cameroon shutting down internet access to its Anglophone regions. The proposal defines an internet shut down as

Internet Shutdown: A government ordered blocking access to the general internet. Said definition does not preclude a government from censoring content that is not legally permissible within the laws of said country, on the provision that said censorship does not include a law that says “All content irrespective of its source or its nature”.

The draft operates on 3 strikes and you out policy. The impact of shutting down the internet is ramped up if a government is a repeat offender. The proposed solution is that if a government orders the blocking of access to the general Internet, or attempts to restrict access to the Internet by a segment of the population, AfriNIC will not allocate resources. In the event of an internet shutdown performed on the order of a government that is either total or partial, then

  1. For a period of 12 months following the end of the shutdown – AFRINIC will allocate no resources to the government of the country. This also applies to all government owned entities and entities that have direct provable relationships with said government.
  2. In the event of a transfer policy existing, AFRINIC shall not assist or participate in any transfers to any of the entities above.
  3. All sub-allocations of space within said country involving the referred to entities shall equally cease for a period of 12 months.

To listen to the interview between Andrew Alston and Radio France’s Daniel Finnan, click here.

What do you think of the policy and its possible impact on good internet governance?