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An experiment in non-communication?

In what some observers are calling a first, the government of Egypt has shut down the country’s four Internet service providers, blacking out nearly all net access in the country in the face of widespread protests.

According to the Aljazeera news organization, which specializes in news of the Arabic world, protesters have been mobbing city streets and throwing rocks and some gasoline bombs in Alexandria and Cairo for four days. The crowds of mostly young people have been calling for an end to the rule of Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for 30 years. Protests also have been reported in the cities of Suez, Mansoura and Sharqiya.

James Cowie on the blog asked the central question: “What happens when you disconnect a modern economy and 80,000,000 people from the Internet? What will happen tomorrow, on the streets and in the credit markets? This has never happened before, and the unknowns are piling up.”

He said that exceptions to the Internet blackout were the 83 routes of the Noor Group which allows inbound traffic from Telecom Italia. That allows access to the Egyptian stock exchange (

Cowie said that Tunisia blocked certain Internet routes and Iran limited traffic to slow communication when those two countries were faced with large scale protests recently. Neither imposed a complete blackout, however.

Tom Kelchner

Update from Twitter, 4 p.m. (EST):

I’m not sure what to think about this but it sounds serious: