Internet and cell service restored in Egypt, reports indicate

Internet access started to return across Egypt on Wednesday, nearly one week after the government cut access over increasing civil unrest in the country. By midday local time, many websites were once again accessible within the country according to local ISPs.

Facebook and Twitter were once again accessible, which are said to play a key role in helping organize anti-government protests. It is not exactly clear why the government decided to restore Internet service, although it may be part of a wider effort to restore some sense of stability to daily life in Egypt following President Hosni Mubarak's statement that he would step down in September.

Mubarak in an earlier statement had defended his actions, saying he was on "the side of citizens' freedom to express their views," but said that the "repercussions on the current and future of Internet is unpredictable," according to Al Jazeera television.

Network analysis firm Renesys -- the first to make light of Egypt's unprecedented move to shut down the Internet in the country -- said ISPs almost uniformly returned to the Internet around 9:30am UTC. It also noted that both Facebook and Twitter appeared completely unblocked or altered.

The Wall Street Journal also reports that wireless phone providers MobiNil and Vodafone are restoring cell phone service. Egypt's decision to restore cellular and Internet service comes at what could be a sensitive time for the country.

Clashes have become increasingly more violent in Cairo, as pro-Mubarak demonstrators met anti-government protestors in the city's center square. UN officials say that several have died and at least 500 are injured, and emergency personnel are having a hard time reaching those in need.

If protestors use social networking like they had previously, there is a good possibility that Thursday's events could be the largest -- and most violent -- yet.

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