Syria shuts down the Internet

Here we go again. This time Syria has cuts its people off from the Internet.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

What is with Arab dictatorships and their thinking that cutting their people off from the Internet is a good idea? First, it was Egypt. Then, it was Bahrain, and finally Libya gave it a try How's that working out for you guys? Egypt's government was overthrown; Bahrain's ruling family is hanging on thanks to outside support and mercenaries; and Libya's in the middle of a bloody civil war. All-in-all, trying to cut the people's communications' life lines just angers the protesters even more and draws the world's disapproving attention.

The state-run Syria News site reported earlier today, June 3, 2011, that "The Syrian government has cut off Internet service (3G, DSL, Dial-up) all across the country (Arabic link), including government institutions." Later the same site reported that the Internet is available across parts of Syria [but that the] "Internet was 'broken' in Damascus, Syria's capital, and Aleppo, and the provinces."

This sounds to me like the officials are making up their story on the fly. This, in turn, suggests that Syria's dictatorship hadn't really thought out the ramifications of turning off the Internet.

As in the other Arab countries where the rulers tried the switching off the Internet gambit, Syria's Internet is controlled by the government. The Syrian Telecommunications Establishment (STE), which provides backbone services to other ISPs and DSL and dial-up services to businesses and individuals, is owned by the state. 3G and 3.5G wireless data services are available in larger cities from several providers. All of these, however, operate on the government's sufferance. In total, when the dictatorship allows it, about 17.7% of Syria's population has Internet access.

The immediate cause for Syria's move appears to have been the call for mass "children" protests over the murder of a 13-year old boy, Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, in late April. In addition, Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad continues to assault restive towns with the army.

Regardless of tanks or the lack of the Internet though I strongly suspect that Syria's rebels are far from done and that al-Assad may yet find himself out of power.

Related Stories:

Libya turns off the Internet and the Massacres begin

Bahrain's death toll grows and its Internet slows

How the Internet went out in Egypt

Freedom Box: Freeing the Internet one Server at a time

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