Monitoring the internet in Iran in real-time: the 2017 Presidential election

On May 19th 2017, Iran will hold presidential election. In previous presidential elections evidence of internet degradation in Iran has been documented (2009) and, unusually, acknowledged to have been carried out by the incumbent regime (2013). There is also evidence that the internet in Iran is throttled around other politically sensitive times (Ackermann 2017).
Iran’s entire internet infrastructure is run by the Telecommunications Infrastructure Company (TIC) which is a state-owned enterprise controlled by the ICT ministry. This arrangement “affords the Iranian authorities with total control over the internet backbone, as well as the ability to limit access or throttle speeds during sensitive political moments, which last occurred in the lead-up to the 2013 presidential elections.” (Freedom House 2016)
Over the election period, we will be providing here observations on the quality of the internet in Iran. Our method produces district-level observations on internet access and internet speed at hourly intervals.
Our approaches leverages similar methodologies to our existing research program that has yielded global insights on the adoption of the internet, sleeping patternseconomic outcomes, and internet tampering. Our approach was most recently used to monitor the quality of the internet in Turkey during their recent constitutional referendum.
The outcomes of our monitoring are provided first and foremost to the Iranian people, and additionally, to those in the international community who have an interest in the functioning and availability of the internet during times of political significance.

How are the figures created?

We have collected online/offline and latency observations on over 300,000 randomly selected IP-addresses that are known to exist within Iran, multiple times per hour. We conduct these observations from several, international, observation assets.
We aggregate these data into percentage of IPs online, and the average latency (return time for a packet of information to travel to that IP and back again) of online IPs.
Since internet quality can be affected by international causes we additionally collect internet quality data at over 140,000 IPs which are known to exist in neighbouring, non-Iranian, cities to serve as a control group.
Figure 1 provides a comparison of the first-differences (level today minus level yesterday) of the online fraction in Iran and control regions.
Figure 2 provides a comparison of the first-differences of the latency (internet speed) in Iran and control regions.
In both figures, if the lines lie on top of each other, one can say that the quality of internet in both Iran and control areas are equivalent. If the lines deviate substantially, then the quality of the internet in Iran is different to that of the control areas.


Our methodology is not designed to monitor the quality of access to specific websites, or specific traffic within Iran. We cannot make any observation on this aspect of Iranian internet quality.

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Photo credit: BBC World Service, via Flickr

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