Without broadband, the Internet in Egypt

The Egyptian government may have cut its people's broadband connections to the Internet, but the people are finding other ways to connect to the world.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

When Egypt cut the Internet off for the vast majority of its citizens, the Egyptian government did a frighteningly good job of turning off the Internet. But, despite the government's efforts, in the days that have followed Egyptians are reaching out to each other and the world with a mix of old-fashioned dial-up modems and satellite Internet.

Make no mistake about it, the Egyptian government did what they intended to do: They've cut their people from using the modern broadband Internet. Using cobbled together technology, however, Egyptian Internet users has continued on.

Thanks to dial-up modems, some Egyptians are able to login to international modem pools outside the government's control. Internet activist groups like Werebuild and Telecomix are publishing lists of international modem-dial up numbers. While there are several Egyptian ISPs that offer dial-up,  these, at best, still keep their users locked in Egypt.  I'm told by sources in Egypt that these site often don't work even for connecting with other Egyptian sites.

Relatively few phone lines, however, can dial out of Egypt. Some voice mobile phone services--but not texting, aka Short Message Service (SMS) or data services--are back in operation in a few areas. This has opened the door to using mobile phones to dial into international dial-up modem pools. Once, there Egyptians can use Bluetooth-equipped phones to connect with computers for a cobbled-together modem Internet connection. Full instructions on how to do this can be found on this blog site.

In addition, a few well-off users have been able to connect to the Internet with satellite Internet services and phones from companies such as Thuraya, which appears to be the company that Al Jazeera uses to keep its continuous Egyptian news coverage up; Iridium; and Inmarsat. All these companies offer direct satellite Internet coverage as well as voice.

None of these solutions, even the modems, are cheap however. It costs Egyptians several dollars a minute just for a 28Kbps (Kilobits per second) dial-up connection.

In the meantime though Egypt's reigning government is staggering. Perhaps one of the first signs we'll see of it falling-if it falls-will be the restoration of Egypt to the full world-wide Internet. Just as the broadband Internet took only minutes for the government to take down, it may take little more time to bring it up again.

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