Despite Severed Connections, Egyptians Get Back Online

As the #jan25 revolution continues in Egypt, many people are finding that some of the oldest tricks in the book are working to get them connected, which authorities have tried to stop from happening with enforced curfews and cuts to Internet service.

Internet across Egypt was shut down on Thursday at 22:34 GMT. "It seems the stuff of fantasy, or a really bad techno-thriller from the mid-90s: an embattled government turning off the Internet in an attempt to silence pro-democracy protesters. But that's exactly what happened," the Atlantic Wire's Ray Gustini explained. "[T]he country's four major Internet providers abruptly cut off web access to nearly 80 million customers. The move came days after the government blocked access to social networking websites, including Twitter and Facebook."

The cuts remain in place, but that hasn't stopped Egyptians from organizing against the government. (Follow the Atlantic's live-blog of today's events here.) A 26-page pamphlet, for example, was distributed by hand -- the old-school method that worked for every revolution before the Internet became commonplace.

And now many Egyptians are finding ways around the cuts and getting back on the Internet, allowing them to more easily communicate with the outside world and spread information from the inside. One popular method is to use the local phone lines, which remain intact. The trick is to bypass local Egyptian ISPs (Internet Service Providers) by connecting to remote ones hosted in outside countries -- many are hosted here in the United States; Los Angeles seems, for whatever reason, to be a popular site. This is easy enough for the most computer-illiterate among us to do using basic settings and a built-in 'Help' function, but Egyptians have a second hurdle as most homes in the country are unable to call internationally. One way that many are getting around this is by linking through a mobile phone network by establishing a connection between a cell with built-in bluetooth compatibility and a laptop with similar functionality or a computer with a bluetooth dongle.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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