As the world watches events unfold in Georgia, all eyes are on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, a major source of European oil that is not under Russian control and is projected to carry 1 million barrels a day by 2009. (See this link for a map of oil pipelines in the area.) What many people don’t realize is that the cyber world is often built alongside the physical one. That is, those fiber optic cables that carry Internet traffic tend to follow the world’s pipelines, bridges, and railroad tracks. Loss of Internet connectivity can therefore imply the physical destruction of vital pathways for trade. And so it is with some interest that we monitored Georgian Internet connectivity over the weekend as hostilities with Russia escalated. This blog takes a quick look at how Georgia connects to the ‘net and what has been happening over the last three days.
First of all, we identify 309 prefixes (networks) that geo-locate to Georgia, originated from 26 Autonomous Systems (ASes). As the following graph shows, over the past three days, up to 35% of the prefixes disappeared from the Internet, sometimes for long periods of time, and up to 60% of them were unstable. Interestingly, none of these outages appear to be permanent — quite surprising for a war zone. The Internet is resilient.
When you consider the geography of the region, Georgia has few options for connectivity via land routes, namely Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. As it turns out, most of those 309 Georgian prefixes get routed via Turkey’s TTnet (AS 9121) or Azerbaijan’s Delta Telecom (AS 29049). Traffic to Delta Telecom then heads to Russia via TransTelCom (AS 20485). During the hostilities, we’ve seen no significant changes in routing. In particular, we saw no apparent attempts to limit traffic via Russia, but then again, most traffic from Georgia seems to currently transit Turkey.
So with respect to connectivity, Georgia is ultimately dependent on either Turkey or Russia, and of course, the Turks have their own problems with the PKK. But Georgia has been planning ahead and just announced the completion of the first stage of a cable to Bulgaria under the Black Sea to give them a direct conduit into Europe. As of today, this fiber does not appear to be lit, as we see no evidence of Georgian traffic routed directly via Europe. We will continue to monitor this situation closely as events unfold.