Egypt: to thwart protests, government attempts to leave the internet


"Confirming what a few have reported this evening: in an action unprecedented in Internet history, the Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet. (

See also this related post at BGP.


  1. Awesome (sarcasm), now -only- government officials can read the protest guides.

    I hope this goes well for the people of Egypt.

    1. A wifi mesh network along the lines of PTPnet in Portland, OR is another possibility:
      If I remember correctly, they’re set up so that nodes in the city can talk to each other even if the backbone connections out of PDX go down. I don’t think it’s something that you can just instantly set up though.
      The wiki can be hard to find your way around–this page is as good a guide as any I’ve found:

  2. The elites are hearing the beating of the tell-tale heart.

    Ray Davies called it: Paranoia, the destroyer.

  3. Here’s a lesson in the importance of not putting all of the eggs of the People’s voice in the basket of a single technology: especially when the Establishment controls the “off” switch.

    Revolution doesn’t need the internet. The Web is great, but over-reliance on a single communication channel is a weakness. Short wave, ham radio, and land lines can’t be so easily unplugged. Use them, people.

  4. Sad tomorrow will be grim indeed. This would have not taken place were it not part of a larger, harsher and more systematic retrenchment of state control over the Egyptian populace than we’ve seen in recent days. Unclear what will happen in the next 24 hours, but a repeat of Tunisia appears ever less probable.

  5. @Flaminica – well said.

    As far as I know, Egypt is not performing mass jamming of the 2.4ghz spectrum, so plain old 802.11b will work just fine.

    This concept has a name – Free Speech or Stone Age:

    So it is indeed possible for the Egyptian “authorities” to block free speech, but cutting off the Internet is not enough – they must cut off all modern commerce. As long as laptops with “wi-fi” capabilities are extant, the populace has everything it needs to conduct modern insurrection.

    1. @ Anon and others who are suggesting alternate methods of accessing the internet for Egypt:

      I’m no networking expert, but the internet isn’t some magical cloud floating all around that you just need to find a way to plug into. It is a system of networked computers a few blockable bottlenecks . . .

      WiFi is definitely not going to work, as WiFi is just a localized wireless extension of a wired net (which has been shut off).

      Dial-up is in a similar boat, as it is just another way to access those servers which have been shut off.

      I know a lot less about how cell phones access the net, but I assume that Egyptian cell towers are phoning in to the same Egyptian servers that direct traffic to the rest of the internet, and those are assumably what got shut down.

      Soooo yeah, other then perhaps Satellite internet . . . I pretty sure it is all down for the count. Time to break out the ham radios as others have said.

  6. @a_user

    Erm, no.

    btw, what a great experiment this will be. The Egyptian govt should cut all internet communication forever, with a “what?” and with rapidly blinking eyes. See what happens….

  7. I can’t help seeing this as a desperate closing of curtains. We can’t peek in because the powers have closed the curtains and the people can’t reach out through the bars that well. Okay…
    Friday will be like hearing all the screaming and shouting from outside the room and from time to time someone being able to come out to say what’s happening, or a photo slips from under the door.

    But the powers seem to forget they’re still inside their country, with their own quite bitterly annoyed population. And on top of that all commerce and international interaction made through modern connections can be affected by such a thoughtless “Punching of the Red Button of Desperation”.
    Most of human history shows that revolts don’t need Twitter and Facebook.
    Cut off the internet from people, sure. It won’t stop until you cut off their feet and sew their mouths. And I can assure you that if they do successfully put everyone into a state of moveless terror, people’s minds will still remember these events (Like young people surely do in Iran right now), and they know people outside support them. And by then you justify revolt even more. By doing things like this, you prove their point. In the long run, I would say one thing: the “Checkmate” is set.

  8. Egypt is awful…

    Hmmm, but what other country tries to squelch internet communications when citizens attempt to uncover truth and give reason to launch potential reforms from corruption such as warcrimes, etc.?

    Also… Maybe Hilary should tell the American public where all the teargas, tanks, concussion grenades used against egyptian protesters are made at?

  9. From the Twitters:!/SultanAlQassemi

    He’s mentioned that: roaming on foreign sim cards seems to be working and Noor ADSL seems to be working as it is connected to the banks & stock market and leased lines in offices still work.

    @Cowicide: And VP Joe Biden said Mubarak wasn’t a dictator…unbelievable.

  10. I can’t help but feel that shutting the -whole- internet off would perhaps be counterproductive in stopping a popular youth protest movement…

    I mean, it’d take a -lot- to get me out there actively protesting anything. I’m just not the protesting type.

    Shut the internet off, and I’d be first in line to hit the streets. It’s a massive and unacceptable step. Go ahead egypt, how about you show those kids just how out-of-touch you really are. I’m sure -that- won’t turn out badly.

  11. I am not an expert at any of this but I sense (and perhaps moreso, HOPE) that this will backfire in Mubarak’s face.

  12. Shutting down the internet would get my recluse roommate out of his batcave and onto the streets with go-boom thingies. He’d totally loses his shit if he couldn’t get on Steam.

  13. Well, if they can still make international phone calls and can get modems FidoNet should still work. Also, as I recall, Saddam Insane also pulled the plug on the interNet but we still enjoyed many interesting blogs via USB drive and SD cards.

    Nice to see what’s actually on the mind of the “Arab Street” instead of all the blather we hear here about how there are supposed to be large numbers of people who give a hamster fart about the Palestinians. I don’t think that there are given that most people in oil rich countries have lack of food and being tortured to death by their own government to worry about and given the universal “No Palestinian immigrants ever” policies of the region.

  14. Wow. This is so weird. I am trying to read up on a few things, and so many sites are just – gone. Many of the links about khaled said come up empty. It really is strange to have a chuck of the internet gone. I mean – I have probably never needed or noticed and Egyptian site before. But now that its gone I miss it.

    Godspeed, everyone.

  15. you need to get the police and soldiers on your side-don’t answer agression-only respond by saying “aleikum salam”-spreed the word if posible

  16. Xeni – I have to say I have been really impressed with your work on this whole unfolding issue in the Middle East. I’ll be honest with you and say that in the past, I have found a lot of what you have written here to infuriatingly lightweight and as a result have generally not looked forward to seeing your byline on BB. But this is definitely changing. Keep up the good work.

  17. Man oh man, is there even a thesis to be written about how the internet has affected/was dealt with in the MANY different ‘twitter revolutions’. Hivemind, when you write that thesis, let us know!

  18. So what are the ways we can work towards a decentralised or ‘de-bottlenecked’ network?

    It seems that our current infrastructure, based on a small number of providers, funnelled through an even smaller base of hard-network providers, leaves society very open to the whims of government/other nasties.

    As long as this remains the case, we’re always open to the possibility of clamp down on freedom of speech, no matter how nice our government currently may be…

    Is there a feasible way that we can develop an internet that is impervious to this kind of state intervention? A kind of ‘ham internet’?

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