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Congress

Net Access Returns To Egypt

February 2, 2011

egypt_returns.pngEven as street protests took a turn for the worse Wednesday, analysts and observers on the ground are reporting that Internet access seems to have returned in Egypt.

After a five-day blackout, analysts noticed a spike in Internet traffic at about 11:30 a.m. in Egypt, according to James Cowie of the Internet intelligence firm Renesys.

U.S. Internet companies also reported the surge. "Good news: Internet access being restored in Egypt," Google wrote in a Tweet Wednesday morning as the company's
"Transparency Report" recorded a spike in traffic.

Egypt's tight control of communications networks earned condemnation but also sparked concerns about Internet freedom in the United States.

"Those in Congress who have proposed an 'Internet Kill Switch' for the U.S. should realize the danger of their proposal now that Egyptian President Mubarak has flipped such a switch to stifle dissent in Egypt," said TechFreedom President Berin Szoka on Saturday. "This incident also demonstrates a more subtle point: Maintaining the rule of law in times of crisis demands judicial review for the president's decision to designate something a "critical asset" subject to government diktat in the name of protecting 'cybersecurity.'"

The authors of the legislation Szoka referenced, however, denied that their measure would allow the president to shut down U.S. access to the Internet.

In a statement Tuesday, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Chairman Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said their "cybersecurity legislation is intended to protect the U.S. from external cyber attacks. Yet, some have suggested that our legislation would empower the president to deny U.S. citizens' access to the Internet. Nothing could be further from the truth."

They added, "We would never sign on to legislation that authorized the President, or anyone else, to shut down the Internet. Emergency or no, the exercise of such broad authority would be an affront to our Constitution."

They argued that the legislation they introduced in the last Congress includes provisions to protect Americans' First amendment rights and ability to access the Internet, while giving the president "ample authority to ensure that those most critical services that rely on the Internet are protected."

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