As protests have intensified, the internet has been shut down in Egypt. We’ve seen a precipitous drop in reports. Renesys is now reporting that 93% of Egyptian networks are unreachable. The graph at the left, citing Arbor Networks data, has been circulating that illustrates a similar drop in traffic.
Cutting off all internet communications is a drastic step, and people are asking, “Has anything like this happened before?” Our friends at the Opennet Initiative reported on a Burmese shutdown of the internet in 2007 that coincided with a crackdown on protesters there. This report states that the only previous shutdown of connectivity to a country occurred in Nepal in 2005 when their King declared martial law and shut down both internet and cellular connections.
There have been reports of China blocking internet connectivity in certain regions to quell descent. One documented example of that from last summer is the blackout of the internet in the Xinjiang region of China after riots there.
These blockages underline how fragile the internet is, in spite of and, in fact, because of its power.