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Middle East

Syria cut off from global internet

International internet companies say Syria has been disconnected from "internet communication with the rest of world".

Last Modified: 08 May 2013 09:06
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Citizen journalists have relied on the internet to show the world what is happening inside Syria [AP]

Syria's Internet blackout entered into its second consecutive day, which the state news agency blamed on a fault in optical fibre cables.

Landline phone services between Syrian provinces have also been down since Tuesday, SANA said on Wednesday.

"Internet services and phonecalls between provinces were cut off Tuesday evening because of a fault in optical fibre cables," SANA said.

"Efforts are ongoing to fix the faults and to bring Internet and telephone services back up as soon as possible," the agency said quoting a communications official.

Tuesday's shutdown effectively "disconnects Syria from Internet communication with the rest of the world," according to companies that monitor online traffic around the world.

Google's Transparency Report pages showed traffic to Google services pages from the country, embroiled in a civil war that has lasted more than two years, suddenly stopping shortly before 1900 GMT.

Google traffic reports continued to show no activity there several hours after the drop-off.

"We've seen this twice before," said Christine Chen, Google's senior manager for free expression. "This happened in Syria last November and in Egypt during the Arab Spring."

Cause undetermined

It is virtually impossible to definitely determine the cause of such disruptions unless a party claims responsibility, experts said.

Jim Cowie, chief technology officer at Renesys, a US company that tracks global Internet traffic, said the outage looked similar to the one seen last November.

"We don't see any effects in neighbouring countries, and we don't see anything to suggest that the outage was caused by damage to one or another of the several cables that connect Syria with the outside world," he said.

The vast majority of websites within Syria were rendered unreachable as well, other experts said, as the county appeared to shut itself off.

As during Arab Spring disruptions, Google said its Speak2Tweet service, which broadcasts voice messages, was up and running in Syria for people with access to a phone.

Syrian authorities have cut phone and Internet service in select areas in the past to disrupt rebel communication when regime forces are conducting major operations. 

 
Google Transparency report graph providing data on internet usage in Syria (08:00 GMT, May 8)

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