Egypt restores links to Internet

The Internet has returned to Egypt.

Five days after the country took the unprecedented step of disconnecting itself from the global network, Internet users in the country began reporting connections had returned. As they were sending out the news, Egyptian Web sites that had been unreachable for days were again visible from outside the country.

The home pages of Vodafone Egypt and Etisalat, two of the country’s largest telecommunications carriers, were first to appear at around 0930 UTC, according to IDG News Service monitoring. Shortly after the Web sites of Orascom Telecom and the Egyptian Stock Exchange reappeared.

The Web site of the Egyptian Parliament is also now accessible outside Egypt, but does not appear to have been updated since Jan. 24.

Almost as soon as connectivity returned, Egyptians logged on to social networks.

“This is my first tweet after Internet is back in #Egypt. Long live freedom :),” said user Hany Fakhry on Twitter.

Some began uploading pictures and video they’d taken of the protests.

“I don’t know for how long this will last. I’m uploading pix now to my flickr,” said Twitter user “Hossam,” whose profile describes him as a social journalist. The photos, apparently taken over the last few days, provide a glimpse of the protests that have occupied Cairo’s streets.

Egypt was largely cut off from the Internet on Friday, Jan. 28, as protests against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak began to gather steam. The demonstrations, Egypt’s worst social unrest in 30 years, continue and thousands remain Cairo’s Tahrir Square demanding Mubarak’s resignation.

Few countries have ever attempted large-scale Internet blackouts, and none has done so on the scale of Egypt.

In 2009 China cut Internet service to Xinjiang province for 10 months after ethnic riots killed 140 people. Civil unrest pushed the government in Burma to cut Internet links there in 2007, but they were restored a couple of weeks later. In both countries, the number of people affected was relatively small because of low Internet penetration in the regions.

One person that doesn’t appear to have this connection back is Mubarak. The Web site of the Egyptian presidency remains unreachable as of time of writing.

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