Lately there have been numerous reports of VoIP services like Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber being blocked. Users have been unable to access these applications to chat with friends, family, or for business reasons. VoIP applications are essential tools for long distance contact, and many online businesses.
Skype long-distance calls have been blocked in Egypt since 2010, and long distance calling through the internet itself is illegal according to a law issued in 2003. It makes sense then that users tracking the issue have found the source of the issue. Amr Gharbeia, a digital activist, spoke out to say that “Official statements from NTRA [Egypt’s telecommunications regulator] deny blocking, customer service representatives publicly deny blocking, but after pressure they mention to a lot of complaining users that blocking decision is ordered by NTRA.”
The reasoning behind such sudden blockages appear to be financial, as telecommunications in the area seem to be tired of competing with these online internet VoIP services that have been growing increasingly useful and powerful. Twitter user Amr Khalifa received a notice from Vodafone saying that skype had been blocked until further notice. It was only recently that other providers like WhatsApp and Facebook (both services that provide alternate ways to text message) have come under attack as well.
Internet users were outraged, and hashtag #SaveTheInternet swept across Twitter like wildfire. In response, the NTRA issued a statement denying the ban of VoIP services, claiming it was only a rumor. Customer service representatives also explained that decision like that would have to come from service providers themselves–which seems unlikely since customer service representatives from Vodafone, Mobinil, and Etisalat confirmed that the NTRA issued a declaration notifying the companies of a decision to disable Skype usage. To make things worse, this blockage has also affected users looking to access online gaming services and other internet services.
Managing Director at InfraLayer, Ahemed Medhat, thinks it’s the government’s way of controlling and monitoring the internet since VoIP services provide an excellent way for users to remain secure and untraceable. This has caused Medhat to think that the government is making this move based on security concerns, but he also thinks that the ban will influence users to take freedom into their own hands and educate themselves on ways to bypass heavy restrictions.
One way users might do this is by utilizing TorGuard VPN. TorGuard VPN has Stealth VPN technology which excels in censored countries to provide users with an encrypted tunnel and external IP address that will let them connect to remote servers allowing access to popular VoIP services, Netflix, or just unblocked websites. Stealth VPN appears like normal HTTPS traffic, and when paired with TorGuard’s new Stealth Proxy feature–it’s invisible. Check out TorGuard VPN if you’re interested in maintaining your digital freedom!