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Egypt shuts down Internet amid government protests

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Hosni Mubarek

In the midst of growing unrest, and ahead of the largest planned protests yet, the Egyptian government has effectively shut off the Internet in a nation of eighty million people, in an attempt to silence dissent. Egypt's four primary Internet providers — Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, and Etisalat Misr — all went dark as of half-past midnight Friday morning, local time. Text-messaging services have also been disrupted. The protests are due to Egyptians frustrated with rising prices, unemployment, and a Hosni Mubarek-led government intolerant of dissent.

U.S. internet-monitoring firm Renesys said the virtual blackout was "unprecedented in internet history." They stated, "Renesys observed the virtually simultaneous withdrawal of all routes to Egyptian networks in the internet's global-routing table. The Egyptian government's actions tonight have essentially wiped their country from the global map." Experts say what's happened in Egypt would be unlikely to happen in the U.S. due to myriad Internet providers and ways of connecting to the Internet. A simultaneous coordinated shutdown would be a colossal undertaking. Similar Internet service restrictions have taken place in Iran and China, but what sets Egypt's action apart is that the entire country was disconnected in an apparent coordinated effort. Everything appears to be affected except satellite phones.

Though most Egyptians won't be able to connect to Web sites with overseas-based servers, they should be able to connect domestically, meaning it's more like an Intranet, with tiny bits of information dribbling through. Six protestors have already been killed, and it looks like the semi-presidential republic of Egypt has morphed into a dictatorship.