Severed Internet Access in Yemen: A Wake Up Call

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February 3, 2022

Yemen was forced into an Internet shutdown on Friday, 21 January, 2022 when the communications building in the city of Hodeidah was destroyed in a nighttime airstrike. The building is home to the only Internet cable landing point, connecting Yemen to the global Internet network, and the airstrike severed Yemen’s Internet gateway. In the aftermath, a few people were still able to connect to the Internet, but only through costly satellite connections.

This event shows the need for more resilient Internet access and the need to grant critical Internet infrastructure UN protected status during conflict. 

The shutdown affected all communication and information services that rely on the Internet, from social, education, business and financial, to health services. The reach of each person in Yemen is now limited to people immediately around them or people they can reach over the legacy telephony systems. It’s hard to estimate the cost of this loss. And aside from the economic losses, the societal and moral losses are priceless.

The Internet Society Yemen Chapter has worked with the those in charge of the Internet gateway to offer all help possible to restore some Internet access.

This incident is a wake up call to all network operators across the world to increase the resilience of their critical infrastructures. If they don’t, this could happen again, anywhere.

But protecting the infrastructure that people rely on daily to communicate, access information, and continue their livelihoods, is not up to network operators alone. It is a responsibility that stretches far beyond to the United Nations, the international community, and civil society organizations. They need to take serious steps to protect critical Internet infrastructure.

We must treat critical Internet infrastructure as a protected resource during times of conflict. Access to the open Internet provides not just information, access to opportunity, and ways to communicate, but also hope and assurance for those gripped by conflict.

The Internet Society Yemen Chapter is ready to work with anyone interested in increasing Internet resilience in Yemen, and to cooperate with the international community to ensure the protection of critical Internet infrastructures during conflict.

Internet Society Yemen Chapter
February 2022

Please contact [email protected] if you would like to support the chapter’s work on increasing Internet resilience in Yemen. 

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may not reflect official Internet Society positions.