A ‘We Rebuild’ activist tweeted on Friday that when countries block, they evolve; indicating how Egyptians found ways to remain connected globally. To keep information circulating, they utilized landline phones, fax machines and ham radio.
While ISP Noor Group continued operating, the rest were ordered by the Egyptian government to shut down on Thursday. Some areas are without mobile networks. The shutdown seemed to dislocate the mounting protests against the ouster call for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Local ISP may have been unable to provide connection to dial-up modems, dialing an international number to reach another countrys modem connected the Egyptians to the outside world.
We Rebuild has established a Sweden dial-up number. The group is collecting a number list that Egyptians can call and the information is fed on a Wiki page. French Data Network running one of the dial-up numbers said this set up is their first time. Its president Benjamin Bayart said the ISPs modem provides connection every few minutes.
The international dial-up works through a telephone modem access and an international calling service. Some areas may have suspended mobile networks, instructions were posted as to how one can use a mobile phone as dial-up modems.
Users who access Noor make sure they are not being logged. Prior to Internet access shut down, the Tor Project said it observed that Egyptian visitors seek to download its Web browsing software, software that allows anonymous surfing.
Ways to get messages out of Twitter were found even without the Internet. A Twitter account was created on Friday that posted messages received through phone calls from Egypt. Typically the message states that it was a live phone call saying something about the quiet, no police visibility streets in Dokki or that many police trucks were noticed at Sheraton.
Anonymous, a group on the popular image board, joined in and are said to be faxing some government cables from WikiLeaks disclosing President Mubarak’s human rights abuses.
We Rebuild said they are decentralized net activists grouped to work on free Internet access without intrusive surveillance. An IRC for those who can help with radio transmissions from Egypt was set up spreading monitored radio band information to let Egyptians know where to transmit. An FTP site is being set up by ham buffs to hear, record and post what they pick up. Morse code messages were recently heard they said.
No voice transmissions were picked up in the last 2 days according to the National Association for Amateur Radio spokesman, Allen Pitts, but he does not rule out that Egyptians may be transmitting over shorter-range frequencies that carry only 30 or 50 miles.
A setback with ham radio is that those who know how it is used in Egypt may have been military trained and may disagree with the protests while some might be concerned about who might be listening. In Tunisia and Iran protests, websites were also shut down but Internet access was not cut in the same whole scale manner.
This is not the first time things like this occurred. York from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society blogged that the government of Nepal severed the Internet connection there in 2005. In 2007, it was the Burmese government that did the same.