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Egypt Goes Dark As Last ISP Pulls Plug 323

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 damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:24PM (#35062246) Homepage Journal
    The internet in Egypt is still easier to read than slashdot 3.0.
    • by syousef ( 465911 )

      The internet in Egypt is still easier to read than slashdot 3.0.

      I wonder what the slashdot Rosetta Stone would look like? My guess is ASCII porn and ASCII wiring diagrams, but mostly ASCII porn.

  • It's a really clever idea to have a speech-to-tweet service setup, since its circumventing the block, but I don't think it's all that practical for several reasons:

    1. Does it transcribe Arabic?
    2. If you can't get online in Egypt, how will Egyptian people follow the twitter feeds? Broadcasting to the outside world is important, but what's somewhat more important to the Egyptians right now is reaching each other, since they're trying to coordinate a massive million-person protest in Cairo and can't do it via

    • But the audio files are posted and some people are listening to them and hand-transcribing interesting ones, including Arabic ones and retweeting them with the same hash tag.

      They cannot be read inside the country, but it still works for getting messages out.

    • The only way #2 would work right now would be a speech-to-speech mailbox. You call up and leave a message in a mailbox, and 'subscribers' to that messagebox get an automated call replaying the message.

  • Time for Egyptians to stand up and fight back, and many already are.
  • Nobody is sure how Noor was able to keep operating

    Noor Group, a small service provider that hosted Internet connections for the country's stock exchange

    A couple people in government trying to get their money out while they can?

  • 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?"

    • (undoing unintentional moderation)

    • 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 spasm ( 79260 )

      Noor was also the smallest ISP which provided redundancy for the Egyptian stock exchange - it's possible the govt deliberately left it on in order to keep the stock exchange functioning while providing the least amount of additional service to anyone else. They may no longer care if the exchange is up (or may even prefer to have trading 'suspended' until things stabilize one way or another).

  • This just reeks of desperation. The financial markets aren't so important but without communications Egypt is essentially isolated. Let's hope it doesn't take too long for the regime to finally crumble.
  • Idea (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:42PM (#35062464)

    Now we can take their IPv4 addresses back and postpone the depletion.

    They just allocated the last two /8s to APNIC, the remaining five /8s will be delegated to each one of the five regional registries. Goodbye IPv4! Nice to meet you and your brother called NAT.

  • Egypt Goes Dark (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lawand ( 1345185 ) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:43PM (#35062486) Homepage
    Ironically, Noor means light in Arabic.
  • All solutions I've heard so far require people calling international numbers. But do we know whether people have access to international numbers? And how are they going to learn about this service? And their whole problem is that they cannot coordinate their activities, being able to send tweets but not read them will not help much...
    Yeah, I can set up a dialup for Egyptian revolutionaries at my home. I can even post to twitter (ok, I have to make an account first, I'm not a twit myself) what they want to s

    • >All solutions I've heard so far require people calling international numbers. But do we know whether people have access to international numbers?

      well, every time the people put up papercups and wet string, the military keeps shooting the strings down.

      other ideas??

    • I hope one thing that comes out of this is some work on ad-hoc networking.

      Example: a self-orgainzing, ad-hoc, robust re-routing and load balancing network using WiFi enabled machines. To join you'd bring up your machine and sniff for WiFi access points identifying as the net you're after. You'd connect to the strongest one, and if you didn't already have the software you'd bring up a browser and the neighbor would serve you a copy of the routing-and-configuring software. Accept and load it and you're no

  • 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.

  • So all of a sudden these ISPs are losing millions of dollars because they are not allowed to operate in Egypt. Is the Egyptian government going to be compensating them for this direct expense?
    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      Of course not. Corporations exist only at the blessing of the government. They have no expectation to be paid in this sort of case. These companies could just as easily have had their charters revoked and told to get the fuck out of Dodge.

    • lol. Sovereign Risk.

    • I doubt it. Insurance doesn't cover acts of war. The government has bigger things to worry about. It is funny that you worry about their revenue and being compensated. When quite easily a lot of their infrastructure could be destroyed or looted by either anyone during the fighting.
  • by petsounds ( 593538 ) on Monday January 31, 2011 @11:38PM (#35063714)

    I heard a NPR report today on this which mentioned some Egyptians are using dialup modems now and connecting to international numbers for an access point. Not sure how widespread this is.

    I also wonder if a site-to-site wi-fi system using the infamous cantenna could be used to daisy chain net access from across the border. I know the Burmese Tiger rebels used this tactic pretty successfully.

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2011 @11:22AM (#35067886) Homepage
    Think about happens when you take the internet away from a typical teenage girl. When you have news, you sit back and read about it. Maybe play a little farmville. Check your stocks. Without the internet, many egyptians have nothing to do besides go outside and protest.

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."