Earthquake aftermath hobbles Internet links in Nepal as recovery starts

Nepal cables

Survivors of last weekend’s devastating earthquake in Nepal, along with the aid groups surging toward the country, are grappling with spotty telecommunications infrastructure as they begin the urgent work of rescue and recovery.

Internet monitoring companies reported severe interruptions in the connections to Nepal after Saturday’s earthquake. But the more serious damage probably occurred in the “last mile” of connections, with cellular towers and fiber-optic cables knocked offline as buildings collapsed.

“There is the Internet in Katmandu,” said Doug Madory, an Internet analyst at Dyn Research. “How you connect to it would be the challenge.”

Akamai, the Cambridge-based Internet routing company, illustrated the damage to Nepal’s Internet connections with a pair of graphs that showed Internet traffic dropping off immediately after the quake and remaining depressed into Monday.

Akamai Nepal

Compare that to the previous week, which shows a more regular set of peaks and valleys.

Nepal Typical Week - Apr 17-20 - slide

At Dyn, a New Hampshire-based Internet infrastructure company, Madory combed through the performance of more than two dozen Internet companies to measure how the earthquake was affecting people’s ability to connect to each other and the rest of the world.

He found that disruptions in the Internet connection infrastructure were somewhat spotty after the main earthquake, which reflects the fact that systems are failing and being put back together as the country tries to manage the disaster.

“There are these aftershocks that can knock over more things and cause electricity to be an issue. There might be backup generators — at some point, they run out of gas, then there’s another outage,” he said. “There are a lot of moving pieces in the outage. There’s not a single thing going off.”

Here, for example, are the charts from Dyn showing how traffic was disrupted at a data center provider and at the Himalayan Bank.

Main image via Flickr