As anti-government unrest continues unabated in the streets of Cairo, Egyptian authorities have permitted the nation's Internet providers to resume service, ending a week-long outage that sparked widespread criticism and ultimately appears to have done little to quell the protests.
Firms that monitor global Internet activity reported this morning that observed that the nation's ISPs suddenly began re-advertising their Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routes that connect the country with the global network.
"A few moments ago I noticed the first signs of life from the previously unreachable Egyptian networks," Andree Toonk, the founder of the open source BGP monitoring group BGPmon, wrote this morning in a blog post.
Network analysts at monitoring firms Renesys and Ripe reported similar observations this morning, appearing to bring an end to a wholesale government crackdown on Internet activity in the face of opposition protests. In other countries where government authorities have looked to disrupt the online activities of opposition figures, they have more typically targeted specific social and community websites, such as Facebook, Twitter or blog sites.
But in Egypt, the embattled government of President Hosni Mubarak, who remains the primary target of the demonstrators, prevailed on the nation's Internet service providers to go dark, effectively removing the country from the worldwide digital communications grid.
"Egypt has been offline for five days, this is truly unprecedented in these modern days," Toonk said. "It's been interesting to see how alternative ways of electronic communications have been used and how ad hoc Internet connections have been made available."
The restoration of Internet service in Egypt evidently came in a wave, with Renesys reporting that all major service providers except one resuming their paths to the global grid shortly before 11:30 local time. The holdout, Noor Group, resumed service about an hour-and-a-half later, according to Renesys CTO Jamie Contie.
Contie noted that Noor had been an anomaly throughout the process of the Egyptian crackdown, having continued to route global traffic after the other providers went dark, before itself shutting down on Monday.
According to Renesys' checks, Facebook and Twitter were both accessible in Egypt as of mid-afternoon local time.
"No traffic blocks are in place, DNS answers are clean, IP addresses match, no funny business. For now," Contie said.
The resumption of service comes as the unrest in Egypt has taken a new turn, with pro-government demonstrators sympathetic to Mubarek reportedly clashing with protesters in Cairo.
The White House today issued a statement condemning the new wave of violence in Egypt, following on earlier appeals for restraint and freedom of expression in that country.