In response to civil protests around the country, the Egyptian government has shut down most of the Internet communications in and out of the country. According to reports, an initial shutdown earlier this week temporarily affected connections to social networks like Facebook and Twitter, which were used by civil groups to organize protests. Then around Friday midnight Cairo time, the government ordered Internet service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet.

Renesys, an U.S.-based company that monitors Internet traffic, was the first to report the unusual behavior, observing the simultaneous withdrawal of all routes to Egyptian networks in the Internet's global routing table.

"Critical European-Asian fiber-optic routes through Egypt appear to be unaffected for now. But every Egyptian provider, every business, bank, Internet cafe, website, school, embassy, and government office that relied on the big four Egyptian ISPs for their Internet connectivity is now cut off from the rest of the world. Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr, and all their customers and partners are, for the moment, off the air." This message was posted on Renesys' blog at 22:34 GMT. Based on continuous monitoring throughout the day, it's estimated that 93% of Egypt-based networks are still unreachable.

The blackout which might be the largest of its kind so far, has also affected cell phone communication. Vodafone, one of the wireless providers in the country, disclosed this morning that "all mobile operators in Egypt have been instructed to suspend services in select areas."

Totalitarian regimes are known for controlling media exposure when widespread protests occur, but with the proliferation of real-time web-based communication this is simply another step in the ladder for total media and civil control. You can find live updates on the Egypt protests here and here.

Image credit: Arbor Networks