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    Congo Government Allegedly Shuts Off Internet Service to Squash Protests

    Written by

    Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai

    Staff Writer

    The government of the Republic of the Congo has apparently cut access to the main internet service provider in the midst of widespread protests, according to an internet monitoring firm.

    Congo Telecom, or Congotel, the incumbent fixed line provider, went completely dark on Tuesday, according to Dyn, a company that monitors global internet connectivity.

    The outage comes as the government reportedly ordered a crackdown on protests in the capital of Brazzaville. People were protesting against a referendum that would allow the current president to be eligible for a new term. According to news reports, the government cut all communications ahead of the protests.

    Doug Madory, a researcher at Dyn, told Motherboard that the country is not completely offline, since some providers that rely on satellites are still working, according to Dyn’s data. Airtel Congo, another ISP, also went offline on Monday, Madory said.

    The outage, Madory added, is likely affecting a large swath of the population given that Congo Telecom “likely [has] the biggest market share in terms of customers” in the country.

    “Since [Congo Telecom] are the country’s fixed-line operator, it is likely that parts of the country’s mobile network rely on those fixed lines,” he told Motherboard in an email. “So mobile customers can be affected without being a direct customer of Congotel.”

    This is not the first government that resorted to cutting internet and telephone service during a popular protest. In 2011, during the Arab Spring in Egypt, the government cut internet and cellphone service in an attempt to stop the protests in one of the first country-wide government-mandated internet blackouts.

    Since then, other countries, such as Syria, have repeatedly cut internet and cellphone communications during heavy protests or fighting.