Your government is displeased with the communication going on in your location and pulls the plug on your internet access, most likely by telling the major ISPs to turn off service.
This is what happened in Egypt January 25th, prompted by citizen protests, with sources estimating that the Egyptian government cut off approximately 88 percent of the country’s internet access. What do you do without internet?
Step 1: Stop crying in the corner. Then start taking steps to reconnect with your network. Here’s a list of things you can do to keep the communication flowing.
MAKE YOUR NETWORK TANGIBLE
Print out your contact list, so your phone numbers aren’t stuck in the cloud. Some mail services like GMail allow you to export your online contact list in formats that are more conducive to paper, such as CSV or Vcard, and offer step-by-step guides on how to do this.
BROADCAST ON THE RADIO:
CB Radio: Short for “Citizens Band” radio, these two-way radios allow communication over
short distances on 40 channels. You can pick one up for about €90 to €110 Euros, and no license is required to operate it.
Amateur radio: To converse over these radios, also known as “Ham radios,” you have to obtain an operator’s license from Comreg. However, if a State of Emergency is declared, use of the radio could be extremely restricted or prohibited.
Packet Radio Back to the ’90s: There do exist shortwave packet-radio modems. These are also excruciatingly slow, but may get your e-mail out. Like ham radio above it requires a ham radio license because they operate on ham radio frequencies.
Set up a phone tree: According to the American Association of University Women, a phone tree is “a prearranged, pyramid-shaped system for activating a group of people by telephone” that can “spread a brief message quickly and efficiently to a large number of people.” Dig out that contact list you printed out to spread the message down your pyramid of contacts.
Enable Twitter via SMS: Though the thought of unleashing the Twitter fire hose in your text message inbox may seem horrifying, it would be better than not being able to connect to the outside world at all. The Twitter website has full instructions on how to redirect tweets to your phone.
Call to Tweet: A small team of engineers from Twitter, Google and SayNow, a company Google acquired recently, made this idea a reality. It’s already live and anyone can tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855) and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt. No Internet connection is required. People can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to the Twitter account, speak2tweet.
Alex Jones and infowars.com have a telephone number for people to listen to his radio show by phone, in case the internet goes down, or if you don’t have internet. The phone in listen line is 512-646-5000.
If you need to quickly send and receive documents with lengthy or complex instructions, phone conversations may result in misunderstandings, and delivering the doc by foot would take forever. Brush the dust off that bulky old machine, establish a connection by phone first with the recipient to make sure his machine is hooked up, then fax away.
You may not need a fax machine to send or receive faxes if your computer has a dial-up fax application.
NON-VIRTUAL BULLETIN BOARD
Getting back online While it might be relatively easy for a government to cut connections by leveraging the major ISPs, there are some places they wouldn’t get to so readily, like privately-owned networks and independent ISPs.
FIND THE PRIVATELY RUN ISPs
If you are a private ISP, it’s your time to shine. Consider allowing open access to your Wi-Fi routers to facilitate communication of people around you until the grid is back online.
RETURN TO DIAL-UP
According to an article in the BBC about old tech’s role in the Egyptian protests, “Dial-up modems are one of the most popular routes for Egyptians to get back online. Long lists of international numbers that connect to dial-up modems are circulating in Egypt thanks to net activists We Re-Build, Telecomix and others.”
Dial-up can be slow. Often, there is a lightweight mobile version of a site that you can load from your desktop browser quickly despite the limitations of dial-up. Examples: mobile.twitter.com, m.facebook.com, m.gmail.com.
Apple computers tend to have very accessible ad hoc functionality built in, including a pre-installed chat client (iChat) that will automatically set up an ad hoc “Rendezvous” chat room among anybody on the network, without the need for an external service like AIM or Skype. Ad hoc network-hosting functionality is built in to the Wi-Fi menu.
Windows computers have several third-party ad hoc chat applications available (such as Trillian) and setting up an ad hoc Wi-Fi network is almost as simple as on a Mac.
Linux operating systems, of course, have plenty of third-party apps available, and most distros have ad hoc network-creation support built in.
BUILD LARGE BRIDGED WIRELESS NETWORK
Using popular wireless access point devices like a Linksys WRT54G, you can create a huge wireless bridged network — effectively creating a Local Area Network (LAN), or a private Internet that can be utilized by all users within range using a Wi-Fi enabled device.
You can also link multiple devices together wirelessly, extending the range of your network. Most access points will cover a 100 meter area and if your wireless device is built to support the 802.11n wireless standard, you will get almost a 500 meter coverage area for each access point.
To build a wireless bridge, check out the dd-wrt wiki, and learn how to configure Linksys WRT54G as a wireless client using this Anandtech thread.
A used DS family device can be purchased inexpensively. In addition to wi-fi, the DS supports its own wireless protocols. Using Pictochat, it is possible to chat with nearby DS users without having any DS games. Unfortunately, the range is quite short.
Some games, such as the fourth generation Pokemon games, support mail items. Thus you can send your message under the guise of just playing a game. Mail items can be sent through the Internet if you can get on the net and you and your partner(s) have each other’s friend codes.
The original DS and the DS Lite do support the Opera web browser, but finding the game card and memory pack may be very difficult. Starting with the DSi, Opera is downloadable.
Your computer has the ability to set up your own INTRANET. This was done BEFORE the internet was popularized in two ways: Your computer dialled up other computers and sent them the contents of a message board, or local people dialled into your computer. A nationwide system can be set up this way with a central location sending to many cities then each city sending out the info locally.
GET SATELLITE ACCESS
You can have very, very slow internet if you have something similiar to an Iridium phone, which would allow you to do dial up at 2400 baud, which at least gives you e-mail. This will also work when your government has shut down GSM and telephone access, and will work pretty much anywhere on the planet. If you’re in the right place, get yourself KA-SAT access which is satellite broadband and will not be routed through any internet exchange that certain local governments may monitor or block (unless that government is part of EU or er … Uncle Sam.
BACK TO BASICS
Make some noise: Have an air horn or other loud instrument handy. It may just come down to being able to alert people in your local geographic area, who would otherwise be unaware of an emergency. You may also want to learn a bit about Morse code and have a cheat sheet available.