Egypt flips the kill switch the other way

Lesson learned: Killing the Internet makes an angry population even madder. Even those messy paragons of free speech, Facebook and Twitter, are now accessible

On Wednesday, at 11:29 a.m. local time, Egyptian Internet providers again started to advertise their networks to routers on the Internet, allowing connections. The move came after Egypt had severed its connections to the Internet for nearly six days to censor news about ongoing protests and riots in the country.

But the reversal went further. Facebook and Twitter, which Egypt has traditionally blocked, are now accessible from the Internet, says Earl Zmijewski, general manager of network-intelligence firm Renesys.

While the Egyptian government allowed The Noor Group, the Internet service provider that handles much of the nation's business connectivity, to stay online, even that provider was eventually ordered to disconnect, according to Renesys and other network-monitoring firms. The incident likely will impact Egypt's economy for years as companies assess whether it is safe to do business there without government interference, Zmijewski says.

"People have obsessed over the market in China," Zmijewski says. "Certainly, people are going to look at Egypt in a new light and assess the risk versus the reward. I don't think (the censorship) has helped them at all."

Last Thursday, Internet service providers in Egypt almost simultaneously stopped advertising critical information, known as BGP (border gateway protocol) routes, that tells other providers how to transmit traffic to addresses in Egypt. The planned outage followed days of protests by citizens against the 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak.

"Approximately 3,500 individual BGP routes were withdrawn, leaving no valid paths by which the rest of the world could continue to exchange Internet traffic with Egypt's service providers," the company said in a post.

Zmijewski says the most interesting part of the return of Egypt to the Internet is the ability of citizens inside the country to access Facebook and Twitter. Even before the country disconnected from the network last week, it had limited access to the two social networks. Now, citizens inside Egypt can freely access both, he says.

"That restriction has been lifted," he says. "Who made that call? And will they stick to the decision? That's the interesting part of the story."

This story, "Egypt flips the kill switch the other way," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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