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Egypt Switches On Internet After Days

The internet has returned to Egypt.

Five days after the country took the unprecedented step of disconnecting itself from the global network, internet users in the country have begun reporting that connections have returned. On Twitter, journalist 3arabawy echoed the sentiments of others when he proclaimed at 10am (UK time) "Internet is back!!".

As they were sending out the news, Egyptian websites that had been unreachable for days were again visible from outside the country. The news comes as embattled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak announced he would not run for the next presidential term.

The home pages of Vodafone Egypt and Etisalat, two of the country's largest telecommunications carriers, were first to appear at around 0930 UTC, according to IDG News Service monitoring. Shortly after the websites of Orascom Telecom and the Egyptian Stock Exchange reappeared.

The website of the Egyptian Parliament is also now accessible outside Egypt, but does not appear to have been updated since Jan. 24.

Egypt was largely cut off from the Internet on Friday, Jan. 28, as protests against the rule of Hosni Mubarak began to gather steam. The demonstrations, Egypt's worst social unrest in 30 years, continue and thousands remain Cairo's Tahrir Square demanding Mubarak's resignation.

The Internet Society, a non-profit organisation that aims to provide leadership in internet-related standards, education and policy, said it considers the action to block internet traffic as " an inappropriate response to a political crisis ".

"If the blockage continues, it will have a very detrimental impact on Egypt's economy and society. Ultimately, the Egyptian people and nation are the ones that will suffer, while the rest of the world will be worse off with the loss of Egyptian voices on the net," it added.

The Internet Society said that in the longer term, it was " sure " the world will "learn a lesson" from the events, " and come to understand that cutting off a nation's access to the internet only serves to fuel dissent and does not address the underlying causes of dissatisfaction ".

Ovum analyst Angel Dobardziev added that the events in Egypt demonstrated that the " massive growth of mobile and internet services, while bringing productivity and social benefits to the region, has also brought a whole new level of social connectedness, openness, information access, and aspiration ".

He added that "the genie is out of the bottle" with regards to mobile telecoms and internet growth in the Middle East, "and while some regimes may try, there is no way of reversing the impact communications have made on the emerging markets and their people".

"But as events in Egypt show, the road ahead may be rocky for all, including telcos and the people they serve."

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