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U.S. gov’t developing “internet in a suitcase” for dissidents in repressive countries

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Given the role Twitter played in February's rebellion in Egypt (an image from one protest is above), maybe it's not surprising that the government is developing something they're calling "internet in a suitcase." Specifically, it's a suitcase-sized set of components that could be discreetly smuggled into a repressive country and then deliver wireless service to a wide area. (I guess "internet in a suitcase" is catchier than "giant, invisible Starbucks.")

According to The New York Times, the suitcase is a $2 million-dollar project financed by the State Department; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented that

"We see more and more people around the globe using the Internet, mobile phones and other technologies to make their voices heard as they protest against injustice and seek to realize their aspirations… We’re focused on helping them do that, on helping them talk to each other, to their communities, to their governments and to the world."

Both the Taliban and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak have shut down communications infrastructure (the internet, cell-phone networks, etc) in attempts at crowd control. The Times reports that the State Department has also spend $50 million building an independent cell-phone network in Afghanistan with towers located on military bases, where they'll be hard to disrupt. It's a pretty fascinating project, and I wonder if in fifty years you'll be reading about it in history books.