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Bahrain clamps down on web traffic as violence escalates

Gregg Keizer | Feb. 17, 2011
Internet traffic in Bahrain, the Persian Gulf kingdom wracked by a third day of protests, has declined by about 20%, likely as a result of more aggressive government filtering, a Web security company said today.

All three of the nations Cowie ticked off have at one time or another slowed Internet service to their citizens or blocked access to some external services, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Reports last week suggested that Algeria, where protesters have called for the ouster of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was preparing to mimic Egypt and cut Internet connections. On Feb. 12, however, Cowie reported that Algerian sites and providers were still "up and functioning normally."

On Wednesday, Batelco apologized to its broadband customers for what the company called "service degradation," but did not explain the problem's cause.

In a message posted to the Batelco site, Ahmed Al Janahi, the company's head of media relations, said engineers were working to restore full service. "We appreciate our customers' cooperation and understanding while we strive to restore full services, which we hope to do as soon as possible," said Al Janahi.

Batelco did not immediately respond to a request for comment and an explanation of the problem it has acknowledged.

VIVA, another Bahrain telecommunications company, has also said services to its customers has been affected, but blamed "extremely high usage" of the Internet for overloading its capacity, according to the Gulf Daily News , an Bahrain English-language newspaper.

The publication said that other sources attributed the slowdown of the kingdom's Internet service to "a very large number of people download[ing] and upload[ing] videos and watch[ing] live feeds of protests and rallies."

 

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