Internet restored in Tripoli as rebels take control

The country will also soon integrate the rebel mobile networks with the network in Tripoli

Internet connectivity was restored in Tripoli late Sunday local time, as rebel forces took control of many parts of the capital city of Libya.

A new mobile network set up by the rebels in the east of Libya in April, called Libyana Al Hurra, and a similar network in Misrata, will soon also be linked to the Libyana Mobile Phone network in Tripoli, said Ousama Abushagur, a Libyan telecommunications engineer in the U.A.E, who led the team that set up Libyana Al Hurra.

The rebels set up the networks after they were cut off from the centralized Libyana network in Tripoli, which required all international calls to be routed through an international gateway in Tripoli. "Everything will be reconnected and go back to normal," Abushagur said on Monday.

In Tripoli, "Internet went off & is back now", said a resident @flyingbirdies in a message on Twitter. Internet is back in Tripoli after months of no connection, said another Twitter user, @libya_win: "My cousins are speaking to me !"

Local DSL (digital subscriber line) access in Tripoli had been cut off for most people, except some officials in government offices, from February, Ahmed Shreef , a resident of Tripoli, said in an e-mail interview on Sunday.

Shreef and some others used their Internet access to update their followers on Twitter on developments in Tripoli, and to inform rebel fighters of the precise locations of troops loyal to the Muammar Gaddafi regime. Shreef did not disclose how he had got the Internet connectivity.

The upswing in the fortunes of the rebels was reflected early Monday in a congratulatory SMS (short message service) said to have been sent to users by the government-controlled Libyana Mobile Phone. "Free calls for all mobile phones, and the reception is good too," said Shreef in a Twitter message.

The website of Libyan Telecom and Technology, which controls the country's national connection to the Internet, went offline on Sunday, but reappeared Monday carrying a message for the Libyan people on its Arabic website. Renesys, a firm that studies Internet traffic flows, translated the message as congratulating Libya "on emancipation from the rule of the tyrant", in an apparent reference to Gaddafi. The English version of LTT's site does not carry the message.

Local Internet access in Tripoli was temporarily restored late Saturday local time after months of disruption, according to reports on Twitter, as the rebels were closing in on Tripoli. But it was once again blocked on Sunday, Shreef said.

A majority of the country's international routes were also down for a while early morning on Sunday, Renesys reported,

Renesys speculated in a blog post that the brief restoration of the Internet was the sign of a conflict within the local telephone company, with someone struggling to reactivate service at the neighborhood level, only to have it switched off again at the national level.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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