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Seven links about Egypt and the Internet (previously “Four links…)

Yes, Egypt left the internet. “This is a completely different situation from the modest Internet manipulation that took place in Tunisia, where specific routes were blocked, or Iran, where the Internet stayed up in a rate-limited form designed to make Internet connectivity painfully slow. The Egyptian government’s actions tonight have essentially wiped their country from the global map.” (via Renesys)

How exactly did they turn it off? “But how did the government actually do it? Is there a big kill switch inside Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s office? Do physical cables have to be destroyed? Can a lockdown like this work?” (via Gigaom).  Update 1/31: Apparently, with a series of phone calls (via Wired) and not cutting the actual cables (via Ars Technica)

How activists are getting around this limitation… “[B]asically, there are three ways of getting information out right now — get access to the Noor ISP (which has about 8 percent of the market), use a land line to call someone, or use dial-up” (via Computerworld)

…and protecting themselves from retaliation? “Over the last three days, 120,000 people — most of them Egyptian — have downloaded Tor software, which helps activists protect their identity from surveillance by repressive regimes and get around blocked sites.” (via Boston Herald)

Update 1/31: Could it happen in the US? “My legislation would provide a mechanism for the government to work with the private sector in the event of a true cyber emergency,” Collins said in an e-mail Friday. “It would give our nation the best tools available to swiftly respond to a significant threat.” (also via Wired)

Four Takes on Comcast + NBC Universal

Wondering about the NBC Universal-Comcast merger?  Well, Senator Al Franken and FCC Commissioner Michael Copps think it’s a complete disaster.  A lot of others are scratching their heads as they sort through the incredibly complex deal.  Here are four links to get you started.

We’ll start with FCC Commissioner Michael Copps’ statement.

The Comcast-NBCU joint venture opens the door to the cable-ization of the open Internet. The potential for walled gardens, toll booths, content prioritization, access fees to reach end users, and a stake in the heart of independent content production is now very real.

As for the future of America’s news and journalism, I see nothing in this deal to address the fundamental damage that has been inflicted by years of outrageous consolidation and newsroom cuts. Investigative journalism is not even a shell of its former self. All of this means it’s more difficult for citizens to hold the powerful accountable. It means thousands of stories go unwritten. It means we never hear about untold instances of business corruption, political graft and other chicanery; it also means we don’t hear enough about all the good things taking place in our country every day.

The slight tip of the hat that the applicants have made toward some very limited support of local media projects does not even begin to address the core of the problem. Given that this merger will make the joint venture a steward of the public’s airwaves as a broadcast licensee, I asked for a major commitment of its resources to beef up the news operation at NBC. That request was not taken seriously. Increasing the quantity of news by adding hours of programming is no substitute for improving the quality of news by devoting the necessary resources.

Make no mistake: what is at stake here is the infrastructure for our national conversation—the very lifeblood of American democracy. We should be moving in precisely the opposite direction of what this Commission approves today.

The New York Times on the basics of the deal.  Ars Technica: “The size of the deal leaves mere mortals reaching for thesauri”

Senator Al Franken (D-MN): “This is the first time the FCC has allowed discrimination on the internet” (video)

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