Internet in Egypt

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The Internet in Egypt is built upon a modern[citation needed] infrastructure, including widespread broadband Internet access via ADSL. Internet freedom in Egypt under the rule of Hosni Mubarak was rated as only "partly free" by U.S. NGO Freedom House. It remains to be seen how this will change in the post-Mubarak era.[1]

Penetration[edit]

Egypt's Internet penetration rate grew from less than one percent in 2000, to 5% in 2004, and to 24% in 2009.[2] This ranks Egypt 110th out of 203 countries, slightly ahead of its neighbors Lebanon (24%) and Syria (20%) and slightly behind Jordan (26%). The international bandwidth and VoIP Internet markets have been liberalized. More than 200 Internet and data service providers operate in Egypt, making its ADSL services among the cheapest in Africa. As the information and communications technology (ICT) sector continues to grow, Egypt’s spending on ICT reached $9.8 billion in 2008 and is expected to increase to $13.5 billion by 2011.[3]

As part of the Egyptian government’s ambitious program to expand access to ICT, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA), Egyptian National Post Organization (ENPO) and Computer and Software Department at the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce signed an agreement to spread personal computers for every home in August 2008. The agreement is the second phase of a 2002 initiative and is part of the MCIT’s strategy of increasing ICT use throughout Egypt, focusing on socio-economically disadvantaged communities. The initiative includes offering discounts on computers and 512 kbit/s ADSL subscriptions for three years.[3]

Telecommunications companies also work to enable users to access Internet content. For example, Vodafone Egypt, which has 15 million subscribers, announced in August 2008 that it will buy a majority share in Sarmady Communications (Sarcom), an online and mobile content provider. The move was widely seen as part of a wider strategy to dominate Egypt’s Internet market by providing both Internet service and content to customers.[3]

Telecom Egypt, which has a monopoly in the fixed-line telephone sector, owns a 45 percent stake in Vodafone Egypt and had 11.3 million fixed-line subscribers at the end of June 2008. Telecom Egypt leases parts of its network to other Egyptian mobile operators, who use it to provide calls between mobile to fixed-line phones, as well as international calls. In 2008 the government announced it would sell a second fixed-line license, ending Telecom Egypt's monopoly, but plans to do so have repeatedly been delayed.[3]

Almost a million Egyptian households have access to broadband, thanks to sharing of ADSL lines. Of these, 63.4 percent share the connection with their neighbors; 81.9 percent of households that share lines share them with more than three other households. Egypt had more than 400,000 ADSL lines by the end of 2007, 75 percent of which are residential. More than one fourth of Egyptian Internet users visit Internet cafés to get online.[3]

Broadband access[edit]

Broadband Internet access was introduced commercially to Egypt in 2000 as ADSL. The service was offered in select central offices in big cities such as Cairo and Alexandria and gradually spread to cover more Governorates of Egypt. There are numerous (220 according to regulatory authority numbers) Internet service providers (ISPs) in Egypt offering an ADSL service. Four companies own the infrastructure and they are called class A ISPs: (Egynet,[4] LINKdotNET,[5] TE Data,[6] and NOL[7]). Etisalat Egypt has bought both NileOnline and Egynet to expand their Internet presence.[8] They sell to class B ISPs (8 major companies)[9] which, in turn, sell to the rest of the 208 ISPs.

Broadband connections in Egypt vary in quality. The quality depends on the distance from the central loop office, the presence of the ISP in that local loop, and the quality of the copper telephone line on which the broadband connection is carried. Internationally, Egypt is currently served with three international submarine cables. namely, FLAG, SEA-ME-WE 3[10] and SEA-ME-WE 4.[11] but after the mass information blackout of early 2008, with the announcement of Telecom Egypt owned cable TE North[12] and Orascom telecom owned MENA.[13] several other projects are planned to improve the resilience of the international broadband.

Internet exchange points[edit]

Egypt has two Internet exchange points: Cairo Regional Internet Exchange (CR-IX) and Middle East Internet Exchange (MEIX), the former carrying international, as well as domestic, services. Reports related to the 2011 Internet shutdown in Egypt refer to the "Ramses Exchange" as the location where the shut down was effected.[14] The Ramses Exchange, located on Ramses Street near the center of Cairo [15] is the main "wire center" for Telecom Egypt, carrying not only municipal telecommunications traffic, but also serving as the main point of entry for international submarine fiber-optic circuits, back-hauled from landing stations near Alexandria. The Ramses Exchange is also the location of the CR-IX, the largest Internet exchange in North Africa or the Middle East.[16]

Fair usage policy debate[edit]

Ministerial statement[edit]

The Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Tarek Kamel, said in the July 2007 news that the ADSL would be turned from Unlimited to Limited with a Quota at a starting price of 45 LE (Egyptian pounds) for the 256k/64k and a 2GB limit for the download and so on. Due to the widespread use of local line sharing that limited ISPs' subscribers and increased the burden of traffic upon the network. However, almost all the ADSL users, especially the students and users of unlimited ADSL, refused the offer. Most users had come to the conclusion that, if this plan were to be imposed, they would cancel their subscriptions because they wanted the Internet to be unlimited as is.

The plan was to start the limited ADSL Packages on 1 September 2007. It turned out that Tarek Kamel was to aim specific offerings at different price ranges for different individuals unable to subscribe to an unlimited package. As such, the unlimited packages remained as is, and available through all major ISPs with no changes in price, while the limited ADSL price ranges are now offered at a discounted price. with the existing unlimited policies with no fair usage policy except for ADSL2+

Introduction of ADSL2+[edit]

In April 2008, ADSL2+ was introduced in Egypt at speeds up to 24mbit. Now most ISPs have capped all the unlimited ADSL offerings to a quota of between 100GB and 150GB per month, calling it a Fair usage policy. All speeds from 256k/64k up to 24mbit are capped to up to 150GB per month. ISPs stated that the 150GB quota was huge and users could download up to 60 large movies, 10,000 large songs, browse endlessly and send up to 2 million e-mails a month. Most users are divided upon this capping especially those who are heavy P2P users. Going above the monthly quota would result in throttling speed of 64kbit/s for the rest of the month.

Alternative offer[edit]

There is an alternative offer from 256k to 2mbit ranging from 2GB a month to 15GB a month as a fair usage coverage with reduced prices to encourage low range users to the uptake of broadband.

Confusion about capping[edit]

Most ISPs, even though are capped to 100-150GB a month, still claim the offers as unlimited. Also, companies use vague and inconclusive responses about the Fair Usage Policy and its implementation of different packages. The ISP's websites got the FUP in English and placed in hard-to-navigate places plus most of the technical support and representatives are denying that any FUP is in place, which is felt by the end user to be in place, possibly in fear of customers canceling their subscriptions at the thought of being capped.[citation needed]

Performance improvement[edit]

The service has improved dramatically as of late, in terms of performance, during the whole of 2007 till now due to the investment of all parties involved in the providing of Internet in infrastructure heavily.[17] according to NTRA the total international bandwidth at the end of 2009 is 90458Mb and number of ports 970557. which is seeing a dramatic increase from the first quarter of 2009 of only 16,995 Mb.[18]

2008 marine cable damage[edit]

On 30 January 2008 the Internet service in Egypt and the Middle East was affected by a breakage of the two marine cables FLAG & SMW4 connecting Egypt to the world.

TE Data users were not totally disconnected from the Internet, as the company had a third international gateway to the Internet, SMW3. However, they suffered from reduced bandwidth until the issue was resolved.

The local National Telecom Authority has issued a decision for all ISPs to offer a free of charge month to all clients as a compensation for the reduced quality of service during the outage.[19]

Censorship[edit]

While the Internet in Egypt was not directly censored under the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, his regime kept watch on the most critical bloggers and regularly arrested them. The success of the 2011 Egyptian revolution offers a chance to establish greater freedom of expression in Egypt, especially online. Reflecting these dramatic changes and opportunities in Egypt, in March 2011 Reporters Without Borders moved Egypt from its "Internet Enemies" list to its countries "under surveillance" list.[20]

In March 2012 Reporters Without Boraders reported:[21]

The first anniversary of Egypt’s revolution was celebrated in a climate of uncertainty and tension between a contested military power, a protest movement attempting to get its second wind, and triumphant Islamists. Bloggers and netizens critical of the army have been harassed, threatened, and sometimes arrested.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has been leading the country since February 2011, has not only perpetuated Hosni Mubarak’s ways of controlling information, but has strengthened them. Numerous journalists and bloggers seeking to expose the abuses committed during the pro-democratic uprising by certain elements of the Army or the military police have been prosecuted before military courts, and sometimes jailed for several months.

Using data and information gathered during 2010, the status of Internet freedom in Egypt was classified as "Partly Free" in Freedom on the Net 2011 by Freedom House.[1]

In August 2009 the OpenNet Initiative reported finding no evidence of Internet filtering in Egypt in any of the four areas it monitors (political, social, conflict/security, and Internet tools).[22]

A number of Egyptian ISPs offer optional filters to block pornography; TE Data offers Internet services with content controls which eliminate “all of the Internet’s indecent content that might affect your children”.[23]

In 2005 Egyptian authorities continued to both encourage and place restrictions on the use of the Internet. For example, in February, Egypt’s Ministry of Interior ordered Internet café managers and owners to record their customers’ names and ID numbers and threatened to close the cafés if they refused to comply. This action was condemned by the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, which described it as “a gross violation to the right to privacy”.[24] In August 2008, authorities increased the level of surveillance by demanding that Internet café customers provide their names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers in order to receive a text message on their cell phones containing a PIN that they can use to access the Internet.[22][25]

As the Egyptian blogosphere continued to grow, so did the government’s crackdown on bloggers and Internet users. For example, blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman Amer (“Kareem Amer”) was sentenced in February 2007 to four years in prison for “incitement to hatred of Islam” on his blog and for insulting the president. He has since become the symbol of online repression for the country’s bloggers. Other Egyptian bloggers have also been arrested for their online activities, and some have been sentenced to prison. One example is Mohamed Refaat, editor of the blog Matabbat (matabbat.blogspot.com), who was arrested in August 2008 under the state emergency law. He was charged with “offending the state institutions, destabilizing public security, and inciting others to demonstrate and strike via the Internet”.[22]

In a landmark 2007 legal case, an administrative court rejected a lawsuit brought by a judge calling for the banning of 49 Web sites in Egypt. The court emphasized the support for freedom of expression as long as such Web sites do not harm the beliefs or public order.[26] However, in May 2009, a Cairo court ruled that the Egyptian government must ban access to pornographic Web sites, because they are deemed offensive to religion and society’s values.[27] The suit was filed by a lawyer who pointed to an Egyptian man and his wife who were sentenced to prison for starting a swingers club via the Internet as an example of “the dangers posed by such offensive Web sites”. It remains to be seen whether the authorities will enforce this court order.[22]

Egypt has witnessed an increase in the use of Facebook for social activism, which alerted the government to the potential force of the site.[28] As a result, there were rumors that it might be blocked, especially after a group of activists managed to recruit supporters using Facebook for the 2008 Egyptian general strike protesting against rising food prices and President Hosni Mubarak’s government.[29]

On 28 March 2011, military officers arrested the 25-year-old blogger, Maikel Nabil, at his home in Cairo. The military prosecutor charged him with "insulting the military establishment" and "spreading false information" for blogs that criticized the army's role during anti-government protests. On 10 April a military court sentenced Nabil to three years in prison, in what Human Rights Watch called a serious setback to freedom of expression in post-Mubarak Egypt. Not only was the sentence severe, but it was imposed on a civilian by a military tribunal after an unfair trial.[30][31] Along with close to 2,000 other detainees, he was granted a pardon and released on 24 January 2012 after spending ten months behind bars. Immediately after his release, he once more began to challenge the legitimacy of the armed forces and criticizing their record on the eve of the first anniversary of Egypt’s revolution.[21]

Foreign assistance in surveillance[edit]

American company Narus, a subsidiary of Boeing Corporation, sold the Mubarak government surveillance equipment that helped identify dissidents during the 2011 revolution.[32]

2011 Internet shutdown[edit]

Diagram to illustrate sequence of communications shutdown Egyptians went through from 25 January to 06 February 2011. Times mentioned are according to Egypt local time. Numbers in the diagram are approximate. Last update of the diagram October 2011.

The 2011 Egyptian protests began on 25 January 2011. As a result, on January 25 and 26, the government blocked Twitter in Egypt[33] and later Facebook was blocked as well.[34]

On January 27, various reports claimed that access to the Internet in the entire country had been shut down.[35] The authorities responsible achieved this by shutting down the country's official Domain Name System, in an attempt to stop mobilization for anti-government protests.[36] Later reports stated that almost all BGP announcements out of the country had been withdrawn, almost completely disconnecting the country from the global Internet, with only a single major provider, Noor Data Networks,[37] remained up.[38][39][40] And while Noor continued to operate for several days,[41] its routes started to be withdrawn at 20:46 UTC on 31 January.[42]

It was later reported that the five major Egyptian service providers—Telecom Egypt, Vodafone Egypt/Raya, Link Egypt, Etisalat Misr, and Internet Egypt—all went dark one after the other between 22:12 and 22:25 UTC (12:12–12:25 a.m. Friday 28 January Cairo time). As a result, approximately 93% of all Egyptian networks were unreachable by late afternoon.[38] The shutdown happened within the space of a few tens of minutes, not instantaneously, which was interpreted as companies receiving phone calls one at a time, ordering them to shut down access, rather than an automated system taking all providers down at once.[38]

Analysis by BGPMon[43] showed that only 26 BGP routes of the 2903 registered routes to Egyptian networks remained active after the blackout was first noticed; thus an estimated 88% of the whole Egyptian network was disconnected. RIPE NCC has two graphs of routing activity from Egypt, announcements/withdrawals and available prefixes, including a snapshot of activity during the shutdown.[44]

Shortly after the Internet shutdown, engineers at Google, Twitter, and SayNow, a voice-messaging startup company acquired by Google in January, announced the Speak To Tweet service. Google stated in its official blog that the goal of the service was to assist Egyptian protesters in staying connected during the Internet shutdown.[45] Users could phone in a tweet by leaving a voicemail and use the Twitter hashtag #Egypt. These tweets can be accessed without an Internet connection by dialing the same designated phone numbers. Those with Internet access can listen to the tweets by visiting twitter.com/speak2tweet.

Internet service providers such as the French Data Network (FDN) provided free (zero-cost) dial-up access to Egyptians with landline (analogue) international telephone access. FDN provided the service as a matter of principle, to "contribute to the freedom of expression of the Egyptian people and allow them to keep a connection with the rest of the world."[41]

After the shutdown of the Internet in Egypt, the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, released the following statement calling for an end to the Internet ban:

The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights and the United States will stand up for them everywhere. I also call upon the Egyptian government to reverse the actions that they've taken to interfere with access to the internet, to cellphone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century.[46]

On February 2, connectivity was re-established by the four main Egyptian service providers.[47][48][49] A week later, the heavy filtering that occurred at the height of the revolution had ended and bloggers and online activists who had been arrested were released.

Internet Revolution Egypt[edit]

Internet Revolution Egypt (IRE) is a cyber-protest against the Internet services provided in Egypt for which Telecom Egypt has a monopoly. The protest mainly takes place on Facebook through a page created by a few Egyptian youngsters. Some activity is also seen on Twitter. The most popular age group of the protest is 18 to 24 years. The main Facebook page[50] reaches more than 430,000 followers and continues to expand. This significant expansion resulted in a wide media attention. In response to some accusations in the media, the protest claims to have no relation to politics. The slogan used by the protests is "الأنترنت عندنا في مصر; غالي جدا , بطئ ببشاعة .. خدمة عملاء زي الزفت" which means "The internet services in Egypt; are very expensive, very slow .. The customer service is terrible." [51]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Country Report: Egypt", Freedom on the Net 2011, Freedom House, 15 April 2011
  2. ^ "Estimated Internet Users 2000 to 2009", International Telecommunications Union (ITU), spreadsheet, accessed 12 June 2011
  3. ^ a b c d e "Egypt". OpenNet Initiative. 6 August 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2011.  This article incorporates text from this source, which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
  4. ^ http://www.egynet.com.eg/new_design/about_us/about_us.html
  5. ^ Welcome to LINKdotNET Website
  6. ^ :: TE Data 2011 - The Fastest Internet Network in Egypt (ISP) ::
  7. ^ http://www.nile-online.com/
  8. ^ Etisalat Misr buys into NOL and Egynet - Technology - ArabianBusiness.com
  9. ^ http://ntra.gov.eg/presentations/LicensedTelecomChart22122009_En.pdf
  10. ^ Intro SMW3 Network
  11. ^ South East Asia Middle East Western Europe 4
  12. ^ [1][dead link]
  13. ^ [2][dead link]
  14. ^ Ryan Singel (February 10, 2011). "Report: Egypt Turned Off the Net With a Big Switch, Not Phone Calls". Wired. 
  15. ^ "Google Maps aerial view of the Ramses Exchange". 
  16. ^ "Detail view of Cairo Regional Internet Exchange". Packet Clearing House. 
  17. ^ ط§ظ„ظ…طµط±ظ‰ ط§ظ„ظٹظˆظ… | آ«ط§ظ„ظ…طµط±ظٹط©آ» طھط¹ظ„ظ† ط¥ظ†ظ‡ط§ط، ظ…ط´ظƒظ„ط© ط§ظ„ط³ظ†طھط±ط§ظ„ط§طھ ط§ظ„ظ…ط؛ظ„ظ‚ط© ط£ظ…ط§ظ… ظ…ط´طھط±ظƒظ‰ ط§ظ„ط¥ظ†طھط±ظ†طھ.. ظˆط§ظ„ط´ط±ظƒط§طھ طھط¤ظ...
  18. ^ NTRA Web Site
  19. ^ [3][dead link]
  20. ^ "Countries under surveillance: Egypt", Reporters Without Borders, March 2011
  21. ^ a b "Egypt Profile", Reporters Without Borders", March 2012
  22. ^ a b c d ONI Country Profile: Egypt, OpenNet Initiative, 6 August 2009
  23. ^ "Family Internet", TE Data, accessed 12 June 2011
  24. ^ “Egypt: Increasing Curb over Internet Usage Harassments against Net Cafés Should Immediately End”, Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, 23 February 2005
  25. ^ "Egypt demanding data from cyber cafés users: NGO", Agence France-Presse (AFP), Cairo, 9 August 2008
  26. ^ “Weekly Update #192", Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, 28 December 2007
  27. ^ "Cairo court rules to block porn sites", Agence France-Presse (AFP), 12 May 12, 2009
  28. ^ "In Egypt, a Thirst for Technology and Progress", Noam Cohen, New York Times, 21 July 2008
  29. ^ "Rumors of a Facebook block persist in Egypt", APN, Menassat, Arab Images Foundation, 29 August 2008
  30. ^ "Egypt: Blogger’s 3-Year Sentence a Blow to Free Speech", Human Rights Watch, 11 April 2011
  31. ^ "Egypt blogger Maikel Nabil jailed by military court", BBC News, 11 April 2011
  32. ^ Goodman, Amy (1 February 2011). "Digital Darkness: U.S., U.K. Companies Help Egyptian Regime Shut Down Telecommunications and Identify Dissident Voices". Democracy Now!. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  33. ^ TechCrunch: Twitter blocked in Egypt
  34. ^ Wall Street Journal, Egypt Communications Cut Ahead Of Further Protests[dead link]
  35. ^ Kanalley, Craig (27 January 2011). "Egypt's Internet Shut Down, According To Reports". Huffington Post. 
  36. ^ "Egypt severs internet connection amid growing unrest". BBC News. 28 January 2011. 
  37. ^ "About us – NOOR – Empowering the realities of life.". Noor Advanced Technologies. January 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-01-31. Retrieved 2011-01-31. 
  38. ^ a b c Cowie, James. "Egypt Leaves the Internet". Renesys. Archived from the original on 28 January 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  39. ^ Christopher Williams (28 Jan 2011). "How Egypt shut down the internet". London: Daily Telegraph. 
  40. ^ "Internet in Egypt offline". bgpmon.net. 2011-01-28. 
  41. ^ a b Albanesius, Chloe (2011-01-31). "Egypt Turns to Sole Provider, Dial-Up for Internet Access". PC Magazine. Archived from the original on 2011-01-31. Retrieved 2011-01-31. 
  42. ^ "Egypt's Net on Life Support". Renesys. 2011-01-31. 
  43. ^ Egypt falls off the Internet | BGPmon.net Blog
  44. ^ routing activity in Egypt
  45. ^ Singh, Ujjwal. "Some weekend work that will (hopefully allow more Egyptians to be heard.". Google. Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  46. ^ Michael Hatamoto (1 Feb 2011). "Egypt Internet Ban Lingers, Users Adjusting". Daily Tech. 
  47. ^ "Egypt internet comes back online". BBC News. 2 February 2011. 
  48. ^ Craig Labovitz (2 February 2011). "Egypt Returns to the Internet". Arbor Networks. 
  49. ^ James Cowie (2 February 2011). "Egypt Returns To The Internet". Renesys. 
  50. ^ "ثورة الانترنت - Internet Revolution Egypt" (Arabic), Facebook. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  51. ^ " 'Down with slow internet': A new Egyptian revolution?", Shounaz Meky, Al Arabiya News, 18 February 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2014.