How To Foil A Nationwide Internet Shutdown

The Egyptian government cut internet connections across their country to silence protests, leaving nearly all of its citizens without online access. But they weren't entirely successful. When governments shut down broadband and mobile connections, here's what to do.

What's Going On Now?

If you haven't been keeping up with the story, here's the gist. Citizens across Egypt are protesting their government in unprecedented numbers, and its believed that the internet played a major role in the protests. So what did the Egyptian government do? First, they started blocking domain name servers (DNS) — the phone book of the internet — but citizens circumvented this limitation by using proxy servers. In reaction, the government cut broadband connections to the web and forced mobile providers to do the same. For more details, read Gizmodo's take on how Egypt turned off the internet. The result: a nationwide internet blackout that's preventing Egyptian citizens from communicating online. To put it bluntly, this sucks. But it's still not good enough. We're going to look at how Egyptian citizens can (and are) circumventing the problem.

Old-School Internet

Unless the Egyptian government kills all of the phone lines as well, you might remember one means of getting online that broadband has since relegated to obsolescence: dial-up. While there's no Egyptian ISP that will allow internet access to Egyptian citizens, other countries will, meaning any Egyptian citizen with long-distance calling capabilities can break out their old school 56k modem and dial-up an ISP in another country. (Sure it's going to be a slow connection, but you can survive.)

Several ISPs — such as Budget DialUp — offer dial-up numbers all over the globe. Some ISPs in other countries are offering free access to Egyptians specifically in response to the Egyptian government's actions. According to twitter user @ioerror, French ISP FDN is one of them:

Egypt can use this number for dial up: +33172890150 (login 'toto' password 'toto') - thanks to a French ISP (FDN)

Others report that even DSL is still a possibility:

@SultanAlQassemi DIAL-UP ISP IS WORKING. DSL still working#Egypt,Try their Dial up numbers (0777 7770),(0777 7000) SPREAD THE WORD

While dial-up isn't an ideal means of getting online for most of us, it's still a perfectly effective means of connecting when your government shuts down the internet. And until the Egyptian government shuts down all landline access — another huge step up the censorship ladder — there's not much they can do to completely shut down the internet.

Do you have resources that can help? If you know of additional options to help Egyptians stay connected and keep the lines of communication open, please share in the comments or contact us directly. We'll keep updating the post with new information as we find it.


    Could satellite internet be a possibility?

    Meanwhile, here in Australia, most of us had no idea of this issue because of the local News Channels propensity for geocentric reporting. Sure we all needed coverage of the floods but a News Show should keep us informed of News from all over the World not just local events, most of which seem to be fairly trivial anyway. Sure I could watch SBS or ABC but my viewing habits are dictated by my own circumstances and a News Show should be a little more varied than the crap we get dished up on a daily basis. :{

      at least it's nowhere near as geo-centric as the US news

      Try abc iveiw for all your national and international news. I know you said that you don't watch abc but the 24 hour news channel can be viewed from nearly any device.

        Yeah, that doesn't solve the original issue though, does it? :<

    Wireless ad hoc

    Now I hate to seem like a cup-half-empty sort of guy, but isn't posting this on a website pretty useless to the Egyptian people? Cudos if this ever happens anywhere else, but right now the only people in Egypt who can see this don't need to.

      It's kudos. And it's obviously written as a 'if this were to happen here' kinda guide. Think about it, honestly.

        Yes, anything detrimental is possible under Gillard/Conroy and this tip needs to be "tucked away" just in case.

    Mesh networks can be very effective getting data moving within distributed intranets, then only need one pipe out to Internet.
    802.11n has this built in to the spec. There was talk of doing this with GPRS which would be even better!

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