Egypt unplugs from the internet

Egypt is effectively offline, after the government cut off almost all internet access late last night.

It’s a far bigger blackout than those we’ve seen in, say, Tunisia or Iran in recent weeks, with ISPs themselves offline, rather than just social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Those were cut off by the Egyptian government earlier this week.

Unrest has been building in the country all week, with the biggest demonstrations against president Hosni Mubarak’s government planned for today – a ‘Friday of Wrath’, as it’s been known.

Egypt’s four biggest internet providers – Link Egypt, Vodafone Raya, Telecom Egypt and Etisalat Misr – all stopped operating at around midnijght local time.

Only one ISP, Noor, appears to be up and running – possibly because it handles traffic for the Egyptian Stock Exchange. It’s also used by a number of big multinationals including ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola and Nestle.

“At 22:34 UTC (00:34am local time), Renesys observed the virtually simultaneous withdrawal of all routes to Egyptian networks in the Internet’s global routing table. Approximately 3,500 individual BGP routes were withdrawn, leaving no valid paths by which the rest of the world could continue to exchange internet traffic with Egypt’s service providers,” says James Cowie of internet analysis firm Renesys.

“Every Egyptian provider, every business, bank, internet cafe, website, school, embassy, and government office that relied on the big four Egyptian ISPs for their internet connectivity is now cut off from the rest of the world.”

The figures are confirmed by BGPmon, which says that 88 percent of the Egyptian internet has ‘fallen off’ the web. “The government seems to be taking a shotgun approach,” it says.