UPDATED: Egypt lifts blockade on Internet service

Move follows announcement by Mubarak that he will not seek re-election

Egyption Internet

Egyptians have their Internet back, as the country's embattled government leaders have apparently realized that the communications blockade was largely ineffective if not counterproductive.

Reports of the resumption of service began within the past three hours.

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The development follows on the heels of an announcement yesterday by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that he will not seek reelection this September and the army called upon protesters to help restore calm to the nation's streets. That entreaty was apparently having little effect this morning as violent confrontations were being reported in Cairo and elsewhere.

From an IDG News Service story on our site:

Egyptian websites that have been unreachable for days began to reappear Wednesday.

The home pages of Vodafone Egypt and Etisalat, two of the country's largest telecommunications carriers, appeared at around 0930 UTC, according to IDG News Service monitoring of the pages.

Internet monitoring company Reneyses provides detail in a blog post and chart (above):

All major Egyptian ISPs appear to have readvertised routes to their domestic customer networks in the global routing table ... The rebooted Egyptian table is smaller than it was a week ago, but that's mostly because of a normal process called "reaggregation" (the deletion of very small, specific customer routes that are partially or totally redundant with existing announcements, generally for purposes of traffic engineering). That's to be expected: the Egyptian table had gotten pretty dense with redundancy in the week leading up to the takedown, and it's been cleaned up in the process of being brought back.

It wasn't totally smooth; a few larger network blocks belonging to the Egyptian Universities Network (AS2561) were still missing. Unfortunately, these included the address space that hosts the .eg top level domain servers. The routes have since recovered.

Google, which had made clear its support for the protesters and cooperated with Twitter in establishing blockade workarounds, made note of the restoration of service in a tweet reading: "Good news: Internet access being restored in Egypt."

A Wall Street Journal report gives censorship effort a failing grade:

In the end, the shutdown proved less an impediment than a source of fresh anger among ordinary Egyptians who suddenly lost contact with friends and family overseas. Protesters had no trouble pulling together larger and larger crowds, culminating with an estimated 250,000 people that gathered in central Cairo Tuesday to demand an end to President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule.

Updates as warranted.

(Update: You're an exception, BlackBerry users. Bloomberg reports: "Egypt's state-run news agency said today that the country has not restored Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry smartphone service. RIM said on January 27 that is has not implemented any changes that would affect service in Egypt. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and India all threatened to shut down BlackBerry service last year over concerns that the devices might be used to foment social unrest or coordinate terrorist attacks.")

(Update 2, 9:36 a.m.: I'm reading some reports indicating that social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, the original targets of the Egyptian government, are still being blocked.)

(Update 3, 10:55 a.m.: Meanwhile, violence in the streets continues unabated, according to this roundup from USA Today.)

(Update 4, 1:20 p.m.: An assertion by a self-described Egyptian reader claiming that the restoration of Internet service has been extremely selective and politically calculated cannot be corroborated through any media outlet I can find. Meanwhile, the New Hampshire-based Internet monitoring company Reneyses, continues to report near-universal if not universal restoration, and even this a video depicting how it rolled out.

None of which means there are not Egyptians without Internet access, of course.) 

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