Myanmar Internet Connectivity - Essential to Holding Power
Since the beginning of February 2021, when a military junta deposed the democratically elected members of Myanmar's ruling party, the country has seen an accelerated deterioration of internet freedoms. The new authorities have ordered telecom operators to regularly switch off the internet and impose sweeping restrictions on websites, services and apps in order to stifle free speech and prevent opponents from organizing protests.
At Speedify we believe in a free and open Internet for all. Access to the Internet should be considered a basic human right and we will continue our fight to secure these protections for everyone.
At the onset of this conflict we committed to providing users in Myanmar with free 50 GB / month Speedify accounts. Here is what has happened since then.
Nightly Shutdowns, Daily Restrictions
Since mid-February, the internet has been turned off nightly nationwide from 1 AM to 9 AM. During the days when the internet is available, specific websites and social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been blocked. Worse still, the military government has drafted a new cybersecurity law that gives them full power over the internet access for everyone.
According to the New York Times, the military government’s method of choice for restricting internet connectivity is to decouple website addresses from the numerical address a computer needs to look up specific sites. In practice, this is similar to listing a wrong number under a person’s name in a phonebook - also known as DNS filtering or spoofing. See more on that in this comprehensive article on how internet censorship works.
Circumventing Government Restrictions by Using VPNs
In order to circumvent these types of restrictions (when the Internet is on), many people from Myanmar are using VPNs. These encrypt all the traffic to and from the internet, so others can’t spy on what you’re doing online.
To date, we have not seen any coordinated attempts to block our service. Speedify has some sophisticated methods for working through firewalls, and except for when the internet is entirely disconnected, we have stayed unblocked.
A Surge in Speedify Usage
Here are some Myanmar traffic stats from Speedify from the first three weeks of February 2021:
- Before February 7th, 2021 we saw very little traffic from Myanmar, less than 100 users per day.
- We’ve seen two massive spikes in usage and installs from users in Myanmar - February 7 and February 13. Both of these were during weekends.
- So far this month, over 490,000 unique users have connected to Speedify from Myanmar.
- Users in Myanmar primarily connect to servers in India, Singapore, and the USA, but have used over 370 different servers in total.
Stay tuned - we will continue to update this article with fresh data every month.
Why Myanmar Chose Speedify as One of Their Most Popular VPNs
According to Statista, the internet penetration rate in Myanmar in 2019 was around 31%. At a population of 54 million, that means around 17 million users have internet access. As stated above, we’ve seen nearly half a million unique active users from Myanmar run Speedify, which means 3% of the population has chosen Speedify as their VPN.
We realize that part of this is because Speedify is available to them for free. But it's likely that performance is another reason: our channel bonding, header compression and error correction makes Speedify uniquely fast on slow, unreliable internet connections.
One thing is for sure: we will continue to provide the Speedify service to people in need of access to the free internet.