Did Libyan Gov't Briefly Turn Internet Access Back On To Try To Stall Rebel Attacks?

from the gotta-have-my-skype dept

The general news headlines right now are entirely about the supposed fall of the Libyan government. Of course, that’s way outside of our coverage areas, but an interesting side story to all of this concerns internet access in Lybia, and the good folks at Renesys have the details about the up-and-down nature of the internet yesterday in Libya. Apparently, internet access in the country has been sporadic at best for months. It was completely off for many people — but some folks still had access. Apparently all internet access goes through 16 blocks of IP addresses, all managed by Libyan Telecom and Technology (LTT). 11 of those blocks have mostly been down, but five have been up — providing access to a few key areas.

However, just as many expected the a big push on Tripoli… internet access came back to everyone. There’s some speculation that perhaps — just perhaps — the government hoped that giving people back their internet would stop them from taking to the streets and overturning the government, though that seems a bit unlikely:

And early Sunday morning, the Twitterstream suddenly began reporting something that seemed, on the face of it, totally improbable: the Internet had been turned back on.

Why would the government turn the Internet back on in the middle of an armed uprising? To get people to stay at home and catch up on five months of email? It seemed preposterous. But clearly, as more and more people realized, it had happened. Bandwidth was scarce, but DSL service was back. People started Skypeing with friends and relatives, some reporting hearing live gunfire in the background as their VoIP calls began to connect.

And then, as suddenly as it had come, Tripoli’s Internet access stopped working again. For a total of perhaps an hour and a half of uptime, spread out in bursts between the hours of 2:00am and 4:30am, local time, the Internet had been functional again.

It seems more likely that this was just some sort of screwup or “solidarity” move by someone at LTT. Perhaps the details will come out in the near future. But, for now it’s yet another interesting tidbit in the ongoing efforts by governments trying to use or block the internet to deal with uprisings.

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Comments on “Did Libyan Gov't Briefly Turn Internet Access Back On To Try To Stall Rebel Attacks?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Turned on by accident?

A comment at the Renesys blog has a IMHO quite plausible hypothesis: that it was turned back on by the rebooting of a router.

At least on Cisco routers, you apply configuration changes by entering a configuration mode, doing the changes in memory, and saving them to the NVRAM. If you do not do the last step, the changes are temporary, and will disappear when the router is rebooted.

So, it is a plausible scenario that whoever made the changes did not save them (perhaps to make it easier to go back to the normal working configuration when everything is over), and the router was rebooted by accident. Perhaps some of the fighting nearby affected the power lines, and the router suffered a power loss before the generators could kick in.

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