Egypt switches off the internet

Egypt has pulled the plug on the internet in a bid to stop social media sites from fanning the flames of protest.

Egypt switches off the internet

According to web traffic watchers, the authorities, which control the relatively few fibre optic networks in Egypt, plunged the country into digital darkness shortly after midnight Cairo time.

The unprecedented move comes amid fears that protesters calling for an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s nearly 30-year rule were using Twitter and other services to organise their movements.

“Virtually all of Egypt’s internet addresses are now unreachable, worldwide,” said James Cowie in a blog of the internet intelligence gatherer Rensys.

“This is a completely different situation from the modest internet manipulation that took place in Tunisia, where specific routes were blocked, or Iran, where the internet stayed up in a rate-limited form designed to make internet connectivity painfully slow. The Egyptian government’s actions have essentially wiped their country from the global map.”

It’s probably a phone call that goes out to half a dozen folks who enter a line on a router configuration file and hit return

The four main service providers – Etisalat Misr, Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya and Telecom Egypt – ceased working at 12.34am, and experts believe that the order was given by central government.

According to traffic management company Arbor, Egypt has a small number of data routes into and out of the country and the companies that own or run the technologies are under strict licenses from the government.

“It’s probably a phone call that goes out to half a dozen folks who enter a line on a router configuration file and hit return,” chief scientist for Arbor Networks Craig Labovitz told the Associated Press. “It’s like programming your TiVo – you have things that are set up and you delete one. It’s not high-level programming.”

According to Rensys, one of the only carriers still up and running is Noor Group, which still has live routes to its Egyptian customers, with inbound transit from Telecom Italia, possibly because it is the carrier used by the Egyptian Stock Exchange.

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