After day-long reports that Egyptian users access to social networks has been disrupted, Internet routing experts say tonight that the entire nation is largely cut off from the Internet. The notable exception appears to be the network providing connectivity for the Egyptian Stock Exchange.
"In an action unprecedented in Internet history, the Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet," writes James Cowie in an analysis on the Renesys blog. "Critical European-Asian fiber-optic routes through Egypt appear to be unaffected for now. But 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."
"Looking at BGP data we can confirm that according to our analysis 88% of the ‘Egyptian Internet’ has fallen of the Internet," reports the BGPMon blog.
Following the recent overthrow of the dictatorship in Tunisia, activists in Egypt have escalated protests in Egypt, with a major protest scheduled for Friday. As with the events in Tunisia, social media sites have been credited with playing a meaningful role in spreading word about the protests.
"The revolts in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen are driven by deep dissatisfaction with authoritarian regimes, but Internet technology has played a crucial role as a 21st century weapon for democracy movements," reports the San Jose Mercury-News.
That role has apparently made the social media sites a target, with widespread reports early Thursday of access problems. 'We are aware of reports of disruption to service and have seen a drop in traffic from Egypt this morning," Facebook spokesperson Jillian Carroll told Reuters.
But the broader disconnect seen this evening is another matter.
"What happens when you disconnect a modern economy and 80,000,000 people from the Internet?," wonders Renesys' Cowie. "What will happen tomorrow, on the streets and in the credit markets? This has never happened before, and the unknowns are piling up."
The one network that both Renesys and BGPMon report as being connected to the broader Internet is Noor, which hosts the web site for the Egyptian Stock Exchange.