Internet Back Up After Libyan Rebels Storm Tripoli

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Internet services seem to have been restored in Tripoli after the rebel forces stormed the Libyan capital

As the momentous events play out in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, internet services are reportedly back online after rebel forces took control of many parts of the city.

Prior to the storming of Tripoli on late Sunday night, internet access was unavailable for local people, except for government officials. But it seems that when rebels forces raced into central Tripoli at the weekend, internet access was briefly resumed.

In April eWEEK Europe UK reported on the fact that rebels had managed to create their own mobile phone network, dubbed Libyana Al Hurra, after rebel engineers hijacked a mobile phone network run by Colonel Gaddafi’s son.

Network link up

But now according to PC World, it seems that Libyana Al Hurra and a similar network in Misrata, will soon also be linked to the Libyana mobile phone network in Tripoli. This is according to Ousama Abushagur, a Libyan telecommunications engineer in the UAE, who led the team that set up Libyana Al Hurra.

Libyana is one of two mobile operators in Libya. It is owned and operated by the Tripoli-based Libyan General Telecommunications Authority, which in turn was run by Gaddafi’s eldest son Muhammad.

Over the years, Gaddafi had built his telecommunications infrastructure to fan out from Tripoli. This meant that all calls, both landline and mobile, were routed through the hub within the capital city, giving Gaddafi and his security services total control over Libya’s telecom and internet infrastructure.

“Everything will be reconnected and go back to normal,” Abushagur is quoted as saying on Monday.

Tripoli internet battle

Meanwhile Renesys, which is a firm that measures Internet traffic flows, reported on its blog about the battle for Tripoli’s Internet.

“Something very strange was going on with Tripoli residents’ Internet access. Service was restored suddenly in Tripoli, flickered on and off for a couple of hours, and then died, with the majority of the country’s international BGP routes withdrawn from service for good measure,” said the blog on Sunday.

And as of Sunday it seemed that ADSL services were not available. Renesys speculated in a blog post that the brief restoration of the Internet had been a sign of a conflict within the local telephone company, with someone struggling to reactivate service at the neighbourhood level, only to have it switched off again at the national level.

However Renesys noted that the website of Libyan Telecom and Technology, which controls the country’s national connection to the Internet, which went offline on Sunday, then reappeared at 12am on Monday sporting the message, written in Arabic.

“Congratulations, Libya, on emancipation from the rule of the tyrant.” The English version of LTT’s site does not carry the message.

Back online

Meanwhile other signs are emerging that the internet is now available again in Tripoli.

Ahmed Shreef tweeted the following on Monday. “Can confirm the internet is on in Tripoli. Not sure what the catch is.”

He later tweeted. “Free calls for all mobile phones and the reception is pretty good too.”

Oppressive regimes are increasingly looking to ensure they can essentially turn off mobile networks, social networks, or even the entire phone system (including the internet), in order to prevent opposition forces utilising them to communicate with one another.

Even in democratic Britain, the role of social media and BlackBerry Messenger in organising the recent London riots was criticised by some British authorities.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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