Syria Internet service said to be restored

The service was reported to have been cut on Friday

The Internet in Syria was back on Saturday, a day after it was reported that two-thirds of Syrian networks had been cut off from the rest of the world in the wake of civil unrest in the country.

The Internet shutdown was criticized on Saturday by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who issued a statement saying the U.S. was deeply concerned by reports that Internet service was unavailable across much of Syria, and that some mobile communication networks were offline as well. "We condemn any effort to suppress the Syrian people's exercise of their rights to free expression, assembly, and association," Clinton said in the statement.

Seven of the 40 networks that were earlier unreachable returned around 19:00 UTC (22:00 local time Friday night in Damascus). The development was reported by Renesys, a firm that studies Internet traffic flows, via its blog on Saturday. The rest came back shortly after 04:00 UTC (07:00 local time Saturday morning), it said.

Renesys reported on Friday that starting at 3:35 UTC (6:35 am local time) on that day, approximately two-thirds of all Syrian networks became unreachable from the global Internet. Over the course of roughly half an hour, the routes to 40 of 59 networks were withdrawn from the global routing table, it said.

The network prefixes that remained reachable include those belonging to the Syrian government, although many government websites were slow to respond or down, Renesys said.

The networks that were not reachable included the prefixes reserved for SyriaTel's 3G mobile data networks, and smaller downstream Internet service providers, Renesys said.

The shutdown seemed to be in anticipation of a crackdown on Friday that resulted in Syrian forces killing a large number of protesters, according to reports. Syrians have been protesting against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian officials were not immediately available for comment on the Internet cut.

Cutting off the Internet has become common in many parts of the world where governments are facing unrest, much of it planned over online social networks and messaging services.

Egypt cut off its Internet connections from the rest of the world in January after protests broke out in the country. In February, the Libyan government resorted to similar tactics.

If Egypt and Libya's Internet outages are any guide, one might conclude that events on the street in Syria are reaching a tipping point, Renesys analyst James Cowie said on the blog on Friday.

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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John Ribeiro

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