(SF Chronicle) Tech world stunned at Egypt's Internet shutdown

The Egyptian government’s unprecedented shutdown of Internet and mobile phone access Friday stunned the world’s technology community, which questioned whether the country can quickly recover from cutting such a vital link for commerce and communication.

The government’s surprising move came in the face of widespread civil unrest, but essentially wiped the country off the world’s online maps, said Jim Cowie, chief technology officer and co-founder of Renesys, a New Hampshire firm that monitors how the Internet is operating.

“It is astonishing because Egypt has so much potentially to lose in terms of credibility with the Internet community and the economic world,” Cowie said. “It will set Egypt back for years in terms of its hopes of becoming a regional Internet power.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Egypt, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Middle East, Politics in General, Science & Technology

9 comments on “(SF Chronicle) Tech world stunned at Egypt's Internet shutdown

  1. Br. Michael says:

    My goodness. A government shutting down communications and controlling what the people can hear. I am shocked, shocked.

    What a government can do it will do and our own is no different. We would do well to remember this.

  2. Archer_of_the_Forest says:

    That’s why I question the way they do cell phone service in Europe, where all companies have to use the same cell phone network. The investment money goes into gadgets, which is why Europe mobile phones are a lot nicer than most American cell phones, and Europeans give us a lot of guff over it. Whereas in America, cell phone technology investment largely goes into competing networks. Each cell phone company has its own, and sometimes vastly different, network and networking technology, all fueled by competition.

    Each method has its own strengths and weaknesses. However, the kicker with that European style communications system (which is the thinking that governs telecommunications in Egypt) is that in the event of a government crackdown or coup de’tat, the only thing the government has to do is shut down the one operating network to create total communications blackout. That is a whole lot harder to accomplish if there are multiple networks, as is the case here in the States.

  3. Branford says:

    According to news reports:

    Renesys’ network sensors showed that Egypt’s four primary Internet providers — Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr — and all went dark at 12:34 a.m. Those companies shuttle all Internet traffic into and out of Egypt, though many people get their service through additional local providers with different names. . .
    The technical act of turning off the Internet can be fairly straightforward. It likely requires only a simple change to the instructions for the companies’ networking equipment.
    Craig Labovitz, chief scientist for Arbor Networks, a Chelmsford, Mass., security company, said that in countries such as Egypt — with a centralized government and a relatively small number of fiber-optic cables and other ways for the Internet to get piped in — the companies that own the technologies are typically under strict licenses from the government.

  4. Branford says:

    Somehow I lost the link, let’s try this again – it’s here

  5. BlueOntario says:

    #2, let’s just say, that “in the event of an actual emergency” things will get done. 9/11 got a lot ad people thinking about the what ifs.

  6. Br. Michael says:

    I might add that it is this sort of thing that leads the NRA and gun owners to resist any form of gun registration. The government can’t seize what they don’t know about and they can’t turn off what they don’t control. And the US government is no more trustworthy than any other government.

  7. John A. says:

    #2 You need to check your facts. European networks use a single *standard* not a single network. In fact AT&T and T-Mobile in the US use the same standards and all of the US operators will be joining with all of the other operators in the world as (practically) ALL wireless networks migrate to the LTE standard.

    More companies are expected to lease or share networks in the future. Currently very few companies share networks with one notable exception. Virgin Mobile which is affiliated with the airline Virgin Atlantic, leases capacity from other operators. Interestingly, customers consistently rate the quality of the Virgin network higher than the operator’s own retail customers which goes to show how subjective quality can be!

  8. John A. says:

    The one network that can’t be easily shut down is the ham radio network. If you are really worried about having reliable communications in an emergency ham radio is definitely the way to go.

  9. Teatime2 says:

    John A.,
    Actually, Sprint purchased Virgin Mobile USA not too long ago. As a longtime VM customer, I was a bit bummed by that. VM has lost a bit of its fun quirkiness since then. (You used to be able to earn free minutes by taking surveys and such but Sprint ended that.) Customer service isn’t as good as it was with Virgin, either. Sprint has also pared down the cheaper phone offerings, in favor of older smart phone models. Still, I pay just $30/month for 1500 mins., 500 texts and 10 mb of data per month. It’s a good deal.