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Egypt shuts off Internet and cell phone service

Egyptians demonstrators demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak march in central Cairo. Banner reads: "Yes to National Unity No to Terrorism, Muslims and Christians are One, Mosques and Churches are One."

TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: In Egypt today, more anti-government protests as rioters in the streets clash with police. In an effort to hold back the violence, the country today shut down the Internet and cell phone communication.

David Butter is Middle East head of the Economist magazine's Intelligence Unit. He's with us from London. Good morning, Sir.

DAVID BUTTER: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: How does a government just shut down the Internet? Do they have an on-off switch?

BUTTER: The whole telecommunications sector in Egypt still has a fair amount of state control over it. And so I think that it probably is not that difficult for people in the intelligence services or the police to hand out instructions to the relevant engineers at the various choke points. So I think ultimately it is people turning off a few switches.

CHIOTAKIS: How's this going to affect the connections -- Egypt's connections -- to the global economy and to the American economy as well?

BUTTER: Clearly because today is Friday, which is a holiday in Muslim countries and it's not a business day -- tomorrow is also a day off for the financial sector -- the government appears to be calculating that the fall out from this in terms of financial flows and reputation will be limited, but it does set quite a worrying precedent and I think it would only add to the flight of capital that we've seen over the last couple of days when the markets eventually open up.

CHIOTAKIS: David Butter from the Economist Intelligence Unit in London. David, thank you.

BUTTER: Thank you.

About the author

Steve Chiotakis was the host of Marketplace Morning Report until January 2012.

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