Aug. 22, 2011 at 2:37 AM ET
Throughout Sunday, reports began to make their way around social networks saying that Libya's Internet was back on. Having been effectively turned off by the Gadhafi regime since the beginning of March, this was cause for celebration for many. But global Internet tracking service Renesys said that while some services were coming back on line in Libya, the war-torn nation's Internet access was far from fully restored.
It's actually a bit of a mystery that's only now unfolding. Though there was a full-blown nationwide blackout in March, Libya's Internet connection to the rest of the world has actually been fairly normal in the following months. It was the Internet service at the local level that was curtailed, so citizens were offline (mostly), but the actual border connections were running.
Suddenly, early in the wee hours of August 21, "something very strange was going on with Tripoli residents' Internet access," reported Renesys' CTO James Cowie in a blog post. From 2 a.m. to 4:30 a.m., people with residential DSL had bursts of connectivity. "And then, as suddenly as it had come, Tripoli's Internet access stopped working again," wrote Cowie.
What's bizarre, though, is that the reason that the Internet access vanished was that "their plug had been pulled at the international border," reported Renesys. "Nobody in those local networks could exchange traffic with the world outside Libya."
Whether this represented a power struggle between the local Internet providers and the government, or just some kind of momentary IT mismanagement, is a mystery that Renesys' readings alone can't solve. But what is known is that several hours later, the website for Libya Telecommunications & Technology (LTT) was back online, with a text crawl that read "Congratulations, Libya, on emancipation from the rule of the tyrant."
(Note: We independently checked the text, taken from our own screengrab of ltt.ly, shown above. Google translated it as "God is great .... We congratulate the fall of the Libyan people under oppression and tyranny, and we urge the people to celebrate and preserve public property." By this we assume that the machine translation has some misplaced prepositions, and that Renesys' translation is valid. If you can translate Arabic and care to post a comment below, feel free.)
This trickle of Internet connectivity was cause for joy among those seeking an end to the Gadhafi government, especially as the trickle seemed to be a portent of the flood to come.
"Welcome to all our brothers & sisters from inside Tripoli on Twitter... Internet returns to them first time in a long time! #Feb17 #Libya" was a Twitter message from @libyanfsl, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, a longtime opponent of the Gadhafi regime.
NPR's senior strategist and Middle East expert Andy Carvin tweeted, "I remember that day in early March when so many of my Tripoli contacts vanished when the Internet was shut down. Welcome back. #libya".
For up-to-the-minute coverage of the revolution in Libya, keep an eye on msnbc.com's Mideast and North Africa section.