THE NORTH AFRICAN COUNTRY of Sudan was almost completely cut off from the internet on Wednesday, as its government might have severed connections in the midst of rioting in the country and the nation's capital of Khartoum.
Rumours of the blackout had been circulating early Wednesday, as civil unrest mounted south of the capital following the announcement of government plans to withdraw fuel subsidies, immediately doubling oil and petrol prices.
If the Sudanese government is responsible, the blackout would represent the largest state sanctioned shutdown of internet access since the Egyptian riots in 2011.
Internet monitoring firm Renesys reported that the blackout occurred at 1247UTC on Wednesday. While the company said it could not confirm that the government was responsible, Renesys senior analyst Doug Madory said that the cutoff was almost a "total blackout" and suggested that it was possibly government orchestrated.
He said, "It's either a government directed thing or some very catastrophic technological failure that just happens to coincide with violent riots happening in the city.
"From a technical standpoint, the fact that it involved multiple distinct internet service providers at the same time is consistent with a centrally coordinated action. However, it is impossible to tell solely from connectivity data whether this was government directed or a catastrophic technical failure."
This is not the first time that Sudan has seen internet blackouts, however most interruptions in the past were caused by technical failures rather than government intervention.
It is always a serious concern when a government decides to shut down its citizens' access to the internet. The Sudanese people and foreign observers hope that this internet blackout is accidental, or at least temporary, and that communications will be restored soon. µ