Originally published: January 29, 2011
Last updated: January 29, 2011 - 1:10pm
But how did the government shut off Internet access in the country? Is there a big kill switch inside Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s office? Do physical cables have to be destroyed? Can a lockdown like this work? Plenty of nations place limitations on communications, sometimes very severe ones. But there are only a few examples of regimes shutting down communications entirely — Burma’s military leaders notably cut connectivity during the protests of 2007, and Nepal did a similar thing after the king took control of the government in 2005 as part of his battle against insurgents. Local Chinese authorities have also conducted similar, short-lived blockades. The OpenNet Initiative has outlined two methods by which most nations could enact such shutdowns. Essentially, officials can either close down the routers which direct traffic over the border — hermetically sealing the country from outsiders — or go further down the chain and switch off routers at individual ISPs to prevent access for most users inside. In its report on the Burmese crackdown, ONI suggests the junta used the second option, something made easier because it owns the only two Internet service providers in the country. While things aren't clear yet, this doesn't look like the pattern seen in Egypt.