Ukraine Internet Blackouts Starlink – POLITICO

In a shaky video call, Anatoliy Fedoruk, mayor of the town of Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv, said he was looking for generators to help maintain internet service, even with all the other electricity demands. “The fact that people have been able to record the atrocities happening in our city” by posting documents online makes those connections essential, Fedoruk said.

“It’s an online war,” he said. “The connection should always be there.”

On Wednesday, Russian missiles again hit Ukrainian power plants. With an estimated 40% of energy infrastructure damaged and more than 1,000 towns and cities facing widespread blackouts, Fedoruk is one of many city officials across Ukraine who have stressed the need to maintain civilian grid connectivity. alive thanks to this type of widespread cuts.

Ukrainian internet service providers are also taking action.

“All internet service providers, without exception, are now taking care of their electricity reserves,” said Oleksandr Glushchenko, consultant for Ukrainian internet service providers.

Many service providers pre-install batteries on signal-receiving equipment — hardware like routers and satellite dishes — to ensure subscribers have a network connection even during power outages. But ISPs can no longer guarantee whether they will be able to provide a network to connect to in the coming months. “They buy generators and solar panels as alternative energy sources,” Glushchenko said.

Starlink satellites and receivers from Elon Musk’s SpaceX play an important role in these makeshift infrastructure plans. In the newly liberated territories, where ground fighting has destroyed optical cables and server rooms have been looted, internet service providers rely almost solely on satellite connections, Glushchenko said, to restore their own service.

These units also require electricity, of course, and they’re only enough to provide Bucha with a handful of services, even with the lights on.

Civilian Internet access via Starlink is particularly limited because the military commandeers so many units. Of the 15 Starlink units supplied to Bucha when the city was liberated, the city retained only five, Fedoruk said, while the rest went back to the military.

Oleksii Zinevich, owner and operator of “Best”, one of the largest internet service providers in the Kyiv region, notes that Starlink units can serve only a small number of users. “One Starlink receiver can provide service to up to 50 to 100 people,” Zinevich said. Any more, and the quality of the connection suffers significantly.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Glushchenko said those in smaller towns might be better off because the power requirements of the network architecture are lower there. In the event of a massive power cut, a subscriber may “not have internet in Kyiv, but 100 km from the capital in a village he will have it”, he wrote in an SMS.

If city-wide electrical systems fail, residents still envision a fairly short countdown until their connections go down. The “best” owner and operator Zinevich said he had purchased “dozens of generators and hundreds of batteries”, but this equipment is only enough to meet six hours of connectivity demands independently without any power from the networks of the town.

Zinevich goes old fashioned and said he bought a diesel power plant to power his grid station.

Fedoruk, the mayor of Bucha, said Russian soldiers were intentionally targeting computers, phones and network signal receivers because they know how “crucially important” civilian internet access is in this conflict.

Oleksandr Slobozhan, executive director of the Association of Ukrainian Cities and one of the key officials responsible for coming up with a cohesive plan to preserve network connectivity between cities, said municipalities are prioritizing key locations like hospitals to that they can keep the lights on when the surrounding power grids are down.

Although there is a special public service to provide emergency network connectivity, overall “internet and mobile service providers are responsible for operating their own facilities,” Slobozhan said.

His team had requested 10 billion hryvnia ($271 million) from the Ukrainian parliament this summer to buy generators. But so far, Slobozhan said he has only received 1.5 billion hryvnia ($41 million).

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