Mass protests spook Egypt into switching off its Internet

Assan Wassanjantra – The Inquirer January 28, 2011

THE EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT has apparently cut off its citizens’ access to the Internet in response to widespread protests.

In a move that observers regard as unprecedented, the government has shut down all international connections to the Internet, said web monitor Renesys in a blog post. Renesys CTO James Cowie said that virtually all of Egypt’s Internet addresses were unreachable worldwide.

He said, “Every Egyptian provider, every business, bank, Internet cafe, website, school, embassy and government office that relied on the four Egyptian ISPs for their Internet connectivity is now cut off from the rest of the world.”

It looks like the Egyptian authorities have done this by shutting down the country’s DNS servers. Obviously frightened by what has happened in Tunisia, the government sees cutting off the Internet as, in effect, cutting off protestors’ communications.

The Egyptian government’s action might well backfire. Protestors are still working on finding ways to reconnect, while this puts even more focus on a regime that previously said it supported free speech.

As Cowie said, Egypt’s actions have “essentially wiped their country from the global map.”

These developments also show how important the Internet has become, with protestors often using communication channels like Facebook and Twitter.


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