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Libya's Internet sputters back into action

Amid rebel fighting in the capital of Tripoli, Internet access appeared to be restored for local citizens but just as quickly was taken away, according to several news reports.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

The Libyan Telecom and Technology Web site declares �Congratulations, Libya, on emancipation from the rule of the tyrant."
The Libyan Telecom and Technology Web site declares 'Congratulations, Libya, on emancipation from the rule of the tyrant.' Lance Whitney/CNET

Down for the past several months, local Internet access was finally restored for Libyan citizens early Sunday but was then taken offline again after a few brief hours, according to Internet intelligence company Renesys.

Detailing the volatile and often confusing situation in Libya, where rebel forces have been fighting to take control of the compound of Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Tripoli, a Renesys blog yesterday tried to make sense of the latest up-and-down nature of the country's Internet.

Since February, local Internet access has been disrupted for Libyan citizens by the government as Gadhafi has struggled to hang onto power. Though the outside world has been able to receive information online from Libya, most citizens have been cut off from their ADSL access at the last mile, Renesys explained.

But early Sunday, tweets and other reports started to trickle in that local access had been restored on Saturday.

"Bandwidth was scarce, but DSL service was back," said Renesys in its blog. "People started Skypeing with friends and relatives, some reporting hearing live gunfire in the background as their VoIP calls began to connect.

But then as quickly as it had come back on, the Internet was down again just a few hours later. This time, the plug had been yanked at the international level, according to Renesys, meaning that no one in Libya could communicate with the outside world. Specifically, several of the Internet routes maintained by the country's carrier Libya Telecom & Technology (LTT) had been removed from the global routing table, making them unavailable.

In a further development, the routes were soon restored, but then local Internet service appeared to be offline again. LTT's own Web site was down but as of now is back up again. A crawl on LTT's home page is declaring a victory with the message as translated into English by Renesys: "Congratulations, Libya, on emancipation from the rule of the tyrant."

Other groups are also pointing to the Internet's struggle to return to life as a triumph. A tweet by the National Front for the Salvation of Libya welcomed "all our brothers & sisters from inside Tripoli on Twitter...Internet returns to them first time in a long time!"

Hackers have gotten into the act as well, with a group calling itself Electr0n taking control of Libya's domain name registry page nic.ly and posting a simple message "bye bye Qadaffi," as reported by a Sophos blog.

At this point, local Internet service still appears to be disrupted for most of the country. But Computerworld and other sources say the Internet was restored in Tripoli late Sunday as rebels took control of more of the capital.