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China's Great Firewall may squash VPN workarounds by Feb. 1

Bloomberg reports China has ordered the country's three biggest phone companies to block the tech.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Last week, we'd heard that China was cracking down on virtual private networks (VPNs), when one such popular VPN reported that the government had shut it down.

But now, it appears that China is ordering the country's three biggest cellular carriers -- indeed, three of the biggest cellular carriers in the world -- to block users from accessing VPNs in the first place, reads a Bloomberg report.

According to Bloomberg's sources, state-run carriers China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom have until February 1 to keep people from using VPN technology. VPNs allow Chinese citizens to evade the country's notorious so-called "Great Firewall," a filter that blocks news sites and social networking tools (including Twitter and Facebook) which the Chinese government can't control.

The report didn't say if other internet service providers would also be affected by the ban, but if you add up the numbers for China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, they account for over 1.3 billion subscribers combined. 

Representatives for China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.