Almost all 20 million Egyptian internet users disappear from the internet

Egypt’s 55 million mobile phone users and 20 million internet users are today without connectivity after the Egyptian government reportedly ordered the four major ISPs in the country to deactivate international connections. SMS services are reportedly also offline.

The move follows days of protests in the country sparked by the uprising in Tunisia, and eventual removal of the Tunisian government. Friday is expected to see the most substantial protests in Egypt, after Friday prayers are observed.

Customers of the four largest ISPs in Egypt, Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt and Etisalat Misr, were unavailable after midnight Egyptian time this Friday. One smaller ISP called Noor is still active, but it is thought that this is to keep the Egyptian Stock Exchange running; they had an excellent disaster mitigation strategy in place having four external access points spread across 4 telecoms providers, 3 of which are now inactive.

In a world where the Internet is one of the last forms of free and open communication, it is extremely disturbing that almost an entire country can be disconnected at the whim of its government. Nobody from Egypt has been heard from on popular social networks such as Facebook or Twitter since the blackout, which were also affected by specific disconnection targetting earlier in the week, making them unavailable for long periods of time.

“What happens when you disconnect a modern economy and 80,000,000 people from the Internet? What will happen tomorrow, on the streets and in the credit markets? This has never happened before, and the unknowns are piling up. We will continue to dig into the event, and will update this story as we learn more. As Friday dawns in Cairo under this unprecedented communications blackout, keep the Egyptian people in your thoughts” writes James Cowie of internet monitoring firm Renesys, who also have a graph illustrating the speed of the disconnection.