Egypt demonstrates how to silence the internet

“If you have a relatively diverse telecoms market and a very much meshed Internet topology then it’s much more difficult to do than if you have the traditional telecoms structure of two decades ago and they control all the international connections. Obviously that creates a choke point,”

The move by Egyptian authorities to seal off the country almost entirely from the Internet shows how easily a state can isolate its people when telecoms providers are few and compliant. Egyptian demonstrators hold up placards during a protest in central Cairo to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and calling for reforms.

In an attempt to stop the frenzied online spread of dissent against President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule, not only Facebook and Twitter but the entire Internet was shut down overnight, leaving some 20 million users stranded.

Hundreds of service providers offer connections in Egypt, but just four own the infrastructure – Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya [VOD-LN 177.414 -0.90 (-0.5%)], Telecom Egypt and Etisalat Misr.

Daniel Karrenberg, chief scientist at RIPE NCC, a European not-for-profit Internet infrastructure forum, says immature markets with few providers can achieve such shutdowns relatively easily.

“The more simple the topology is and the fewer Internet services providers there are, the easier it is for any government or the telco themselves to control access into any geographical area,” he said.

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