Egypt has returned to the Internet, and connections appear to be behaving normally.

James Cowie, chief technology officer at Renesys, a provider of Internet marketing data and security services, wrote on his blog this morning that the country seems to have come back on line at 9:29 Universal Time (4:29 a.m. Eastern Time).

The connection to the Internet returned after being completely cut off since Jan. 27, when the Egyptian government went to the country's major telecom companies and Internet service providers and asked them to shut down access to the Internet and the cell phone network. Within a day 93 percent of the Egyptian networks were unreachable, according to Renesys. Egyptians were left with using dial-up numbers provided by organizations outside the country such as Google and France's FDN.

Only one ISP in the country -- Noor Group -- was left operating but it was taken down on Monday. Noor provided services to the Egyptian Stock Exchange and the country's aviation authority. The Exchange site was up as of this morning as was the International Bank of Egypt.

President Hosni Mubarak announced that he is stepping down in a televised speech on Tuesday, though the timing is still disputed.

The Internet had become an arena for the conflict between the ruling Mubarak dictatorship and the protesters, though it was far from the only one. Early last week several groups, such as the collective known as Anonymous, had set up pages calling for distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) on sites such as the Ministry of the Interior, which directs the country's security forces.

A DDoS attack can sometimes shut down large parts of a communications infrastructure, as routers attempt to offload traffic that overwhelms them. It wasn't clear that such attacks were having much effect at the time.

Few other nations have managed to cut off Internet access so completely. Only Burma and Nepal have thus far managed to do so, according to Patrick Gilmore, chief network architect at Akamai. But both of those countries are smaller, with fewer networks.

The economic effects of Egypt shutting off Internet access are not yet clear. The stock market plunged in the wake of the protests, but how much of it was the unrest itself and how much the lack of communications has yet to be determined. Many businesses, including major mobile phone companies such as Vodafone, may decide that the possibility of getting shut down is too big of a risk, no matter who assumes power.

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