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Egypt Goes Dark As Last ISP Pulls Plug 323

Posted by Soulskill
from the revolution-will-not-be-tweeted dept.
CWmike writes "Egypt is now off the grid. Four days after the Egyptian government ordered Internet service providers to disconnect from the Internet, the country's last working Internet company has abruptly vanished from cyberspace. Noor Group, a small service provider that hosted Internet connections for the country's stock exchange and other businesses, became completely unreachable at around 10:46 p.m. Cairo time (Eastern European Time), according to Earl Zmijewski, general manager with Internet monitoring company Renesys. 'It looks like they're completely lights-out now,' he told IDG News' Robert McMillan. Thought to handle only about 8 percent of the country's Internet connections, Noor had served as a critical lifeline to Egypt since the government had ordered service cut early Friday morning. Nobody is sure how Noor was able to keep operating, even as larger ISPs such as Vodafone and Telecom Egypt voluntarily cut their Egyptian networks off from the rest of the world." To help with this, engineers from Google, Twitter and SayNow have rolled out a "speak-to-tweet" service, which lets people dial in to an international phone number, leave a voice mail, and have the audio file made available online via an automated Twitter update.
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Egypt Goes Dark As Last ISP Pulls Plug

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  • by donny77 (891484) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:30PM (#35062300)
    This isn't about bandwidth. It's about preventing the populace from getting information. It's about keeping the populace from organizing. Its about control.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:31PM (#35062310) Homepage

    Yeah. The point is that now a critical avenue by which the world at large could see those problems from a non-State-Approved point of view has been cut off.

  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:32PM (#35062316) Homepage
    The protesters are using the Internet to organize. They're protesting to fix those "bigger problems" like a lack of free speech, corruption in government, and police brutality. Preserving their Internet access is preserving their ability to fight for what they want. I believe that's important.
  • by flaming error (1041742) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:32PM (#35062320) Journal

    > The UN should be let in
    By whom?

  • by Amorymeltzer (1213818) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:34PM (#35062336)
    Well, that would be the "news for nerds" part of it.

    In reality, though, the internet shutoff is a key part of the ongoing struggle. Call it a catalyst, a symbol of the regime, whatever - the point is that internet-based communications were pivotal in jump-starting starting this whole thing (back to Tunisia), and serve as a stark sign for whom the international community should rally alongside (hint: it's not the one turning off the media). There's more to the revolution than twitter, but it's more of a revolution when communication happens freely.
  • Re:Yup (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:36PM (#35062368)

    Mubarak's replacement will be the real dictator. Egyptians will regret what they have done, but it will be too late.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:40PM (#35062414)

    That third link provided analysis as to how the government shut down most of the internet:

    ...a government that licenses a mobile authority can threaten violence to individual cell towers or backhaul networks, or to employees working for the carrier. Future license renewals can also be threatened for non-compliance, analysts noted.

    I'm going to suggest that maybe Noor figured Mubarak was weak enough to defy. Maybe they figured his security forces were too busy trying to control the country to shut Noor down, and there wasn't much risk of being denied a license renewal because there wasn't much risk of Mubarak being in power a month from now. It appears to have at least partially worked: they lasted longer than anyone else... though I guess that assumes the forced shutdown involved turning off the power and not, say, destroying their equipment and/or executing their employees.

    A more cynical take would be that it's good PR for if the revolution succeeded. "We were the only ones supporting the revolution. Customers: you really want to stay with Vodafone after they left you when you needed them the most? New government, you really want to let them back in? We helped you, now how about an exclusive license to operate in, say, everywhere?"

  • by hsmith (818216) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:40PM (#35062418)
    When people with machine guns come and tell you "turn off your internet or we will kill you, your family, and just bulldoze the building" - I'd say about 99.999999% of people would comply without blinking. Your "protest" of the engineers would be nothing more than a philosophical circle jerk.
  • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:40PM (#35062420)

    Yea, thats how the UN works, it just goes in.

    Actually the UNSC would hem and haw for weeks about it, someone would threaten a veto or four, probably France just to be a pissed off spoiler because of the Suez Crisis in '56. Then there'd be the decision about the make up of the peacekeeping force, someone would insist on alot of African Union troops, probably France, which would piss off the Egyptians and the Arab League, since some of those AU troops are Christians, and by then the entire place is stable on it's own, or a farking war zone like Mogadishu on a Sunday in 1993.

    The only folks who just "go in" are the Americans and sometimes NATO.

  • by mr100percent (57156) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:51PM (#35062546) Homepage Journal

    Nope. The Muslim brotherhood explicitly has been saying for the last week how they're staying out of this one. Mubarak would LOVE to blame this on terrorists or outsiders, as a way of delegitimizing the protests, so they're not going to try helping him out on that. Egypt is not really known for their extremism, and democracy would likely moderate any factions that try it, especially since there is a very large secular crowd in the country as well as millions of Christians.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:55PM (#35062584)

    They have been shooting protesters, do they need to rape them too?

  • by istartedi (132515) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:55PM (#35062594) Journal

    Egypt's problem is multidimensional. The Internet is our dimension.

  • by mr100percent (57156) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:56PM (#35062604) Homepage Journal

    I don't think the Muslim Brotherhood will take over. Egypt actually has many political Opposition parties and alternative leaders, like Ayman Nour, the Wasat party, etc. They'd be far more likely to win than the Brotherhood. Keep in mind they've been sitting this one out for various strategic reasons. Even so, if they had to run for elections, they'd run towards the center like many other groups. Banning a party, as Mubarak did, will only make it more hardline. Whenever a far right party wins seats, they either are forced to moderate their ideas or they usually lose the next election.

  • by pckl300 (1525891) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:59PM (#35062622)

    Egypt's military has been the source of power for decades, so this is not like Tunisia where the military will just stand idly by.

    This just in: the military is standing by while the people exercise their right to revolution.

  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:59PM (#35062624)

    The Muslim Brotherhood aren't an islamic hardline fascist group. They are in favour of a secular state. And in any case they are no where near having majority support.

  • by mr100percent (57156) on Monday January 31, 2011 @09:00PM (#35062634) Homepage Journal

    High road? He's been on TV crowing about how he is the country's leader of freedom. Nothing but hollow rhetoric.

    He fired the entire cabinet of technocrats, in a lame attempt to deflect blame to others, and is only making the crowds angrier. He could have ordered a more brutal crackdown, but he knows that's what caused the Shah of Iran to lose, so he's not willing to make such a suicidal move. The high road would have been for him to announce a peaceful transition to democracy and upcoming elections and a repeal of his emergency powers that he's been using to suppress free speech and jail people without cause. Egypt is known for the most brutal police and prisons in the region.

  • by thetagger (1057066) on Monday January 31, 2011 @09:11PM (#35062724)

    Thanks for nothing Google. What about hosting a Wikileaks mirror or allowing donations to Wikileaks via Google Checkout?

    It's so easy to be a revolutionary when you are thousands of miles away from any danger. Twitter is full of Internet revolutionaries sipping coffee at a Starbucks in San Francisco.

  • by The13thSin (1092867) on Monday January 31, 2011 @09:17PM (#35062770)

    What are you basing your assumption on that the regime will be replaced by extremists? The protesters seem to be of every walk of life and from every ideological point of view. Even the Muslim Brotherhood recognizes the secular Nobel Peace Price laureate ElBaradai as the main opposition spokesperson now [wsj.com].

    If anything, this could very well mean a good thing for the west, with a more secular and broader government of this huge power in the middle east. Of course, uncertainty doesn't make everyone in the different western governments jump up in joy (even though they arguably should) by this uprising. That said, it would obviously speed things up enormously if the Egypt military would throw their weight behind the protest, and the first signs to that end are already there [aljazeera.net].

  • by mr100percent (57156) on Monday January 31, 2011 @09:42PM (#35062956) Homepage Journal

    You're going to have to show me some citations there. Do you actually trust opinion polls in a police state that lacks free speech?

    When you ban all other political parties, they get together, moderates and radicals alike. It's because they have a common goal to get rid of the existing regime and are being persecuted together. That's why the Brotherhood is seen as popular because they are the !=Mubarak party. When you remove that block, the supporters fragment once more. Look at Iraq for example; all the formerly-banned opposition groups have divided into their respective parties; Communist, Salafi, secularist, Velayat, etc. They were all opposed to Saddam, and he painted them all as Muslim extremists, traitors, puppets of Iran, Israel, and the US, etc. Most of them weren't.

    If you remove Mubarak and allow the formation of political parties once again, you won't see religious extremism take over. Jeffersonian democracy is not like that, instead you get competing factions that will cancel each other's votes out. You'd get a spectrum of political parties from right to left; the Muslim Brotherhood, the Wasat, the National Democratic Party (Mubarak's regime), Socialist party, Communist party, etc. Egypt is not the same as Iran or Saudi etc. You have a large urban class, Cairo is like the Hollywood of the Arab world, and there are tens of millions of non-Muslims living in the land. This revolution is not over religion, it's over political freedom, poverty, and against police repression.

  • by poena.dare (306891) on Monday January 31, 2011 @09:45PM (#35062980)

    Just pointing out...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square_protests_of_1989 [wikipedia.org]

    "Small voluntary civilian gatherings started on 15 April around Monument to the People's Heroes in the middle of the Tiananmen Square in the form of mourning for Hu Yaobang."

    "The movement lasted seven weeks after Hu's death on 15 April. In early June, the People's Liberation Army moved into the streets of Beijing with troops and tanks and cleared the square with live fire."

    Sometimes brutal crackdowns take a while to get organized.

  • by hguorbray (967940) on Monday January 31, 2011 @09:49PM (#35063006)
    many people will disagree that the Muslim Brotherhood is in favor of secularism

    http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=11146

    the Muslim brotherhood has ties to fascism that predate WW2 and has active ties to Europe and the US in addition to the Middle East.

    -I'm just sayin'
  • by Temposs (787432) <temposs&gmail,com> on Monday January 31, 2011 @09:56PM (#35063040) Homepage

    I think it's just as likely that because Noor hosts the Egyptian stock exchange and several large companies, and otherwise serves a relatively small percentage of Egypt's internet connections, the government actually *wanted* to leave them on for as long as possible. Staying in the good graces of the business and financial community in the country and the world is an important part of staying in power, so it's no wonder they would hesitate to disconnect the ISP serving much of the business community through the stock exchange and such.

    Now the government is in panic mode, so they're pulling out all the stops, including shutting down a nerve center of their economy.

  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Monday January 31, 2011 @10:17PM (#35063178) Journal

    I have a novel idea: How about we stay the fuck out. The last thing the US needs is to get involved in "nation building" where we weren't invited. Our track record over the last several decades isn't that good when it comes to nation building anyway. Just not our forte.

    Oh, don't get me wrong, when you need people killed or stuff broken, our American military is seriously second to none. Perhaps that is what we should stick to, when it is appropriate.

    At this point, it would seem the Egyptian citizens have taken responsibility for their own destinies, and unless we are clearly and unambiguously invited, we should stay out. And even if invited, if we can't help them according their own wished, for any reason, then we still stay out. The LAST thing we need is sticking our noses in the middle east when it isn't wanted. From what I can tell, what the citizens want from the US is only VERBAL support anyway. They don't want us there, for good reasons.

    Again, this is from a vet, so is a son of a retired Korea/Vietnam vet. If you have no experience in the military or have no family members to risk, you are welcome to disagree.

  • by Reziac (43301) * on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @03:35AM (#35064874) Homepage Journal

    The food shortage isn't something "America caused". Egypt did this to themselves. Nassar just HAD to have a dam, to prove that Egypt was a "modern" country, but it destroyed the Nile-based ecology and economy -- before the Aswan Dam was built, Egypt was a net food EXPORTER.

    Here's an excerpt from a letter written in 2008, by a PhD who lived there at the time, was in thick with the higher-ups, and knew the situation firsthand:

    =======
    The Aswan High Dam (read Miles Copeland's book "The Game of Nations") blocked silt and nutrient transport downriver and into the eastern Mediterranean. Egypt had a thriving coastal sardine fishery, which landed about 18,000 tons of sardines a year. Within two years after completion of the dam, the sardine fishery collapsed, with the yield falling below 500 tons a year. It has stayed down ever since.

    It took a bit longer to use up the nutrients in agricultural soils, or for the irrigated soils, deprived of their annual "flush", to become so saline no crops would grow.

    Deprived of sediment, the Delta will probably also erode. That's what's happening to New Orleans and vicinity - we've messed around with the river enough that the sediment transport is less and the delta is no longer self-sustaining, but is gradually (well, not so gradually) sinking into the Gulf of Mexico.

    Egypt had a lot of very good fisheries and freshwater biologists - some of them among the best in the world. Nasser convened a scientific panel to advise him about building the dam. They told him what would happen. He didn't like
    hearing that, so all those scientists lost their jobs and had to emigrate. The U.S., for example Texas A&M University, profited greatly by snapping them up. ...

    Well, the reasons for building it were primarily political and had to do with the Cold War. Nasser sucked the Russians and the U.S. into a bidding contest. The Copeland book lays it all out, in a rather amusing way.

    And of course Egypt had, as a matter of national pride, to have a gigantic dam. ...

    Big dams (well, all dams) eventually silt up - they have a finite lifetime. Once the reservoir is silted up the dam can no longer regulate water flow. Don't remember what the anticipated lifetime of Aswan is - maybe a century or less.
    =======

    [Undoing a bunch of moderation to post this, but I couldn't let the historical ignorance stand unchallenged.]

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982

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