The Egyptian government has disconnected the country from the Internet and suspended mobile telephone networks in an apparent effort to disrupt anti-government protests.
Egypt's four primary Internet providers all stopped transferring data at almost the same moment Friday, effectively cutting off 80 million Egyptians from the outside world.
The technology news site cnet.com reports that one Egyptian Internet provider is still on-line, but that only a trickle of data is entering or leaving the country. Traffic on the VOA website coming from Egypt grew by up to 500 percent this week but plunged precipitously on Friday.
According to cnet.com, the Egyptian authorities' action is "unprecedented in the modern history of the Internet."
Social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have been vital communications tools for organizers of anti-government rallies in Egypt.
The government's move to block mobile phone service appeared to be another move to hamper protesters. Foreign correspondents said portable satellite telephones appeared to be jammed, but regular, wired telephone service was not affected. News media with access to high-bandwidth satellite communications gear were able to beam video, photographs and other data to the rest of the world without interruption.
However, the U.S.-based Internet intelligence firm Renesys reported that "virtually all of Egypt's Internet addresses are now unreachable, worldwide."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the Egyptian government's decision to block communications, saying one of the ground principles of democracy should be to protect freedom of speech.
Some foreign journalists reported that Egyptian authorities were targeting media crew. A BBC reporter said he was badly beaten by Cairo police, while a CNN correspondent said police confiscated his crew's camera and the equipment of another foreign television crew.
Local Egyptian television channels remain on the air, showing images of the protests.
Other countries, including China, Iran and Tunisia, have cut off access to specific websites and social networking services in times of unrest, but Egypt's move was much more comprehensive. Official Egyptian government websites are among those that became inaccessible.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.