Internet restored briefly as rebels close in on Tripoli

At one point a majority of the country's international routes were also down, reported Renesys

Local Internet access in Tripoli was strangely restored for a while late Saturday local time after months of disruption, according to reports on Twitter, as rebels closed in on the capital city of Libya. But it was down again for most of the city by Sunday.

At one point a majority of the country's international routes were also down, reported Renesys, a firm that studies Internet traffic flows.

Internet through DSL (digital subscriber line) was momentarily unblocked for Tripoli in the late hours of Saturday local time, a resident Ahmed Shreef said in an e-mail on Sunday. But the Internet was once again blocked by Sunday, he said.

Shreef was unwilling to discuss how he had access to Google's Gmail after the Internet service was blocked again. "I cannot discuss that," he said.

A number of Libyan groups from within Tripoli and outside the country reported through messages on Twitter that the Internet had been restored late Saturday. Some messages on Twitter advised caution. "Not sure what the catch is," said Shreef, for example, in a Twitter message.

Something very strange was going on with Tripoli residents' Internet access, Renesys said in a blog post on Sunday. "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a couple of hours, and then died, with the majority of the country's international BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) routes withdrawn from service for good measure," it said.

The routes are back in Tripoli, but the DSL service isn't, Renesys said. Local Internet service appears to be down again, the status quo ante for the last five months, it added.

DSL was blocked in Tripoli in the middle of February, though it was unblocked in some selective government buildings for some government officials during March and April, according to Shreef.

"Local servers are accessible and the .ly websites can be accessed. This has been so since February," Shreef said.

Renesys speculated that the "brief Tripoli Internet flicker" was the sign of a conflict within the local phone company itself, with someone struggling to reactivate service at the neighborhood level, only to have it switched off again at the national level. The overnight routing failure could also be just another in a sequence of probably power-related outages for Libyan Telecom and Technology's outlier networks, it added.

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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