So it isn’t news anymore that Egypt has followed in Tunisia’s footsteps, in taking to the streets to overthrow a multi-decade dictator. You’ve probably also heard that to prevent protesters from organizing, Egypt has cut off broadband and mobile Internet access to its 80 million residents in the biggest Web blackout the world has seen so far.
Unless the Egyptian government kills all of the phone lines as well, you might remember one means of getting online that broadband has since relegated to obsolescence: dial-up. While there’s no Egyptian ISP that will allow internet access to Egyptian citizens, other countries will, meaning any Egyptian citizen with long-distance calling capabilities can break out their old school 56k modem and dial-up an ISP in another country)
If you ever happen to find yourself in the midst of nationwide protests to overthrow a dictator-for-life, and the government shuts down broadband access, dialing into a foreign ISP might be just the ticket to Internet freedom. But what if the man is also watching international phone calls?
Back in a former life, in a geekier time than I care to remember, I helped run my old high school’s BBS. It was pretty cutting-edge at the time: a private PC connected to a phone line that other computers could call — one at a time — to swap messages, play games, and download teeny tiny files over 14.4kbps connections. When we upgraded to 28.8kbps — and later the same kind of 56k modem that’s likely gathering dust in the computer you’re using right now — the speed boost was a revelation. It was slow as molasses, and picking up a phone in the next room while you were connected would corrupt your transfers, but at the time, it was all we had. And there was no fussing with ISPs and IP addresses — just two computers having a conversation.
Now, the inability to accommodate more than one visitor per phone line at a time is a major limitation, but a series of BBSes might still be a way for opposition leaders to swap information, build a strategy, and agree on times and places for demonstrations. And the archaic tech is being kept alive — ham radio-style — by a network of devoted BBS enthusiasts around the world.
Just a thought…
Some other workarounds, via Lifehacker: