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Friday, 28 January 2011

Egypt Cuts Off Internet and Cell Service

Egypt has cut off nearly all Internet traffic into and out of the country in the largest blackout of its kind, according to firms that monitor international data flows.
Cell phone networks were also disrupted. Vodafone said in a statement on its Web site that “all mobile operators in Egypt have been instructed to suspend services in selected areas.” The company said it was “obliged to comply” with the order.

Egypt like many other countries has been trying to contain growing protests that have been fuelled in part by videos and other information shared over social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Renesys, a Vermont-based company that tracks Internet traffic, said that just after midnight Cairo time, or 5 p.m. New York time, Egyptian authorities had succeeded in shutting down the country’s international access points.

“Almost nobody in Egypt has Internet connectivity, and there are no workarounds,” said Jim Cowie, the company’s chief technology officer. “I’ve never seen it happen at this scale.”

“In a fundamental sense, it’s as if you rewrote the map and they are no longer a country,” said Mr. Cowie. “I never thought it would happen to a country the size and scale of Egypt.”

In most countries, the points of access to the global Internet infrastructure are many and distributed. But Mr. Cowie said that Egypt was relatively late in widely adopting the Internet, so it has fewer access points. The government can shut these down with “six, or even four phone calls,” he said.

A Facebook spokesman, Andrew Noyes, said the company had seen a drop in traffic from Egypt since Thursday. “Although the turmoil in Egypt is a matter for the Egyptian people and their government to resolve, limiting Internet access for millions of people is a matter of concern for the global community,” he said in a statement.

In an interview, Mr. Noyes said the company was still seeing some traffic coming in from Egypt, but that it was “minimal.”

An executive at Google, the owner of YouTube, which activists have used to disseminate videos of the protests, spoke out against the shutdown.

David Drummond, the company’s chief legal officer, said Internet access was “a fundamental right, and it’s very sad if it’s denied to citizens of Egypt or any country.”

We are very likely to see more and more of these types of protest; we have already seen such in Ireland, Turkey, and Russia, Romania and Greece and other European countries as the world goes into chaos and disorder and the world war III looks more likely than ever as this world builds up to 2012?   

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