Back in January, China announced a 14-month plan to “clean up” unauthorized internet connections - a move that would make most VPNs illegal. Now, the government is clamping down even harder by ordering China's three biggest telecommunication companies to completely block access to individual VPNs by February 2018.

Bloomberg’s sources say state-owned telecoms firms - China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom - are being ordered to stop people from using VPNs, which millions rely on to circumvent the country’s Great Firewall and access blocked services. China blocks 135 out of 1,000 of the world’s top websites, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

It's unclear whether other internet service providers will also be forced to implement a ban, but the three affected companies boast over 1.3 billion subscribers combined.

Since the clampdown was announced seven months ago - part of President Xi Jinping’s plans for “internet sovereignty” - at least one VPN has closed its doors. GreenVPN told users that after “receiving a notice from regulatory departments,” it would stop the service from July 1.

Companies will still be able to use VPNs internally and can use leased lines to access the full internet, but the latter must be registered with officials. Firms are still learning to deal with China’s new Cybersecurity Law, which gives the government access to foreign companies’ technology, places restrictions on moving data beyond the mainland, and adds a more comprehensive security-review process for key hardware and software deployed in the country.

At the end of last month, China tightened its internet censorship laws by introducing regulations that require the checking of all audiovisual content to ensure it adheres to “core socialist values.”