Update: Egypt restores links to Internet

Sites that have been unreachable in Egypt for days began to reappear Wednesday

The Internet has returned to Egypt.

Five days after the country took the unprecedented step of disconnecting itself from the global network, Internet users in the country began reporting connections had returned. As they were sending out the news, Egyptian websites that had been unreachable for days were again visible from outside the country.

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The home pages of Vodafone Egypt and Etisalat, two of the country's largest telecommunications carriers, were first to appear at around 09:30 UTC, according to IDG News Service monitoring. Shortly after the websites of Orascom Telecom and the Egyptian Stock Exchange reappeared.

The website of the Egyptian Parliament is also now accessible outside Egypt, but does not appear to have been updated since Jan. 24.

Officials at Internet monitoring company Renesys noted that routers at all Egyptian ISPs were restored within minutes. Each large Egyptian provider came back online on their own schedules, individually, a few minutes apart, according to the Renesys blog.

"We confirm that Facebook and Twitter are up and available inside Egypt, at least from the places we can monitor. No traffic blocks are in place, DNS answers are clean, IP addresses match, no funny business. For now," according to a post by Jim Cowie, CTO and co-founder of Renesys, at 13:34 UTC Wednesday.

Noor Group, the ISP of the Egyptian Stock Exchange, was the last to re-establish service. The restoration of the Egyptian Universities Network, however, wasn't as smooth as the others, according to the Renesys blog.

"It wasn't totally smooth; a few larger network blocks belonging to the Egyptian Universities Network (AS2561) were still missing. Unfortunately, these included the address space that hosts the .eg top level domain servers. The routes have since recovered," according to Renesys.

But during teardown and subsequent set-up, BGP -- the border gateway protocol that routers use to communicate with each other -- performed as expected, according to Marshall Eubanks, CEO of AmericaFree.TV.

"I think that BGP behaves pretty well all by itself. Remember, the churn in BGP is fairly large," Eubanks said. "The RIPE analysis site shows that the Egyptian announcements peaked at about 100K announcements / minute. 100 K announcements / minute churn events are not that uncommon. So, basically, the global BGP system seems to have done what it was supposed to and took the Egyptian withdrawal and reconnection in its stride."

Almost as soon as connectivity returned, Egyptians logged on to social networks.

"This is my first tweet after Internet is back in #Egypt. Long live freedom :)," said user Hany Fakhry on Twitter .

Some began uploading pictures and video they'd taken of the protests.

"I don't know for how long this will last. I'm uploading pix now to my flickr," said Twitter user "Hossam," whose profile describes him as a social journalist. The photos, apparently taken over the past few days, provide a glimpse of the protests that have occupied Cairo's streets.

Egypt was largely cut off from the Internet on Friday, Jan. 28, as protests against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak began to gather steam. The demonstrations, Egypt's worst social unrest in 30 years, continue and thousands remain in Cairo's Tahrir Square demanding Mubarak's resignation.

Few countries have ever attempted large-scale Internet blackouts, and none has done so on the scale of Egypt.

In 2009 China cut Internet service to Xinjiang province for 10 months after ethnic riots killed 140 people. Civil unrest pushed the government in Burma to cut Internet links there in 2007, but they were restored a couple of weeks later. In both countries, the number of people affected was relatively small because of low Internet penetration in the regions.

One person that doesn't appear to have his website back up is Mubarak. The website of the Egyptian presidency remains unreachable as of time of writing.

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's email address is martyn_williams@idg.com.


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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