Cairo mania: Egypt cuts off the Net

To quell citizen demonstrations, Egypt has cut itself off from the Internet. Now the Internet is fighting back

In an historic move, Egypt has unplugged itself from the Internet. In Cairo, the Web has gone as silent as a Sphinx. Protestors who've been using Twitter, Facebook, and email to organize street demonstrations against the 30-year regime of Hosni Mubarak are now up the Nile without a cable modem.

Per the BBC:

According to internet monitoring firm Renesys, shortly before 2300 GMT on 27 January virtually all routes to Egyptian networks were simultaneously withdrawn from the Internet's global routing table.

That meant that virtually all of Egypt's Internet addresses were unreachable.

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Mobile providers like Vodafone were also ordered to stop data services to Egyptian customers, cutting off another possible route to the Net.

There have been a few instances where countries disappeared briefly from the InterWebs due to a mistake. In October 2009, Sweden disappeared for about 90 minutes due to a missing dot in its DNS records. Services like Twitter, Facebook, and Yahoo Mail have been periodically blocked by repressive regimes in Pakistan, Turkey, Tunisia, Iran, and China. Myanmar briefly yanked the Internet plug during a period of unrest in 2007, but at the time only about 1 percent of its population had Net access. Now, some 20 million Egyptians have been cut off -- making it the largest instance of a modern country withdrawing entirely from the Net.

Naturally, the rest of the Web sees this as a call to arms, as well they should.

According to Time's Techland blog, ham radio operators are being recruited to provide an alternative communications network for Egyptian protesters. Shervin Pishevar, founder of mobile games company SGN, is trying a slightly geekier approach, seeking volunteers to build mobile ad hoc mesh networks to get the signal to and from Egypt. Naturally he's doing it via Twitter.

A Twitter user calling himself "Bruce Wayne" is tweeting from the account @EgyptFreedomNow that people can still access the Net via dial-up connections. Now that would be ironic -- a revolution that takes place at 56Kbps. Holy AOL, Batman.

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