A report by the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANET) has concluded that there is no legal basis for an Internet shutdown in Kenya. The report, titled ‘Building trust between the state and citizens: A policy brief on Internet shutdowns and elections in Kenya 2017’, was released last week.

There has been fears that state actors will shut down in the Internet during or after the August elections. Although some quarters have categorically said that there will be no shutdown, some have said that there might be a shutdown depending on how things pan out. This non-committal ping pong is not encouraging and has led to increased fears of a possible shutdown.

The report notes that in 2016, 11 African governments shut down the Internet in their countries during elections and one of them was Uganda. Uganda, lost at least $2.2 million (Ksh. 220 Million) when they shut down the Internet. Kenya’s economy is bigger than Uganda with close to double the number of mobile subscribers. The scale of loss in Kenya in case of an internet shutdown will of course be larger. To put it into perspective, the report notes that during a 7 hour outage of Safaricom in June 2017, it is estimated that the company lost about Ksh. 2.6B.

The report notes 4 ways that the Internet can be shut down in Kenya;

  1. Internet Protocol (IP) address blocking where an Internet Service Provider (ISP) denies
    access to servers that host specific addresses when users try to communicate with those
  2. Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) where equipment reads data passing through a network
    and hijacks it through equipment known as a “middlebox”. Such data never reaches the
    intended recipient and therefore a user trying to access a site in an ISP that is hijacking
    certain sites will never reach it.
  3. Border Gateway Patrol (BGP) attacks where the addresses of certain websites or routes
    to entire networks are taken over illegitimately, thereby corrupting the routes through
    which data to those addresses would have been resolved.
  4. Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) throttling which is the intentional slowing of bandwidth by a service provider. This makes access to throttled sites extremely sluggish, to the point of the sending network dropping those requests, which translates to the user not accessing
    the sites in question.

The report went through all the laws that might be used to justify a shutdown and concluded that there is no way the government can legally shut down the Internet. Additionally, the report recommends that state actors should allay fears of an Internet shutdown by committing to keep the Internet open.

Read the full report HERE.