Jon Snow from Channel4 news reports that it’s not just mobile networks that governments are switching off in an attempt to keep the lid on things. Here’s what he had to say about Saudi Arabia:
The one to watch is Saudi Arabia – ripe for change but far from the frontline of those most likely to go. But intriguingly I learn from expert construction sources that yesterday anyone with a satellite phone had to hand it in.
We live in interesting times.
Being ‘asked’ to hand in your satphone? That’s hardly a riveting full-proof way of controlling the dissemination of information is it. At least you can switch off a mobile network’s base stations. Or take an army division to the operator’s NOC and flip the power switch. That ensures no one using the network can phone or text or email anybody.
(It also — rather annoyingly — prevents Government people from talking to each other too, if they’re using that network.)
But satellite phones? How are you going to prevent people from using those? You can’t switch off a satellite. It must be nearly impossible to prevent satellite communications across a country, surely?
A could-you-hand-it-in-please strategy is a little bit… vague, to say the least.
If you’ve got a satphone, chances are you’re either a wealthy Westerner or someone with a lot of money and therefore some sort of interest in maintaining a degree of status quo.
If you’re a revolutionary with a satellite phone, I don’t think you’ll be responding well to requests to hand it in.
What’s next to be banned? Will Governments resort to flooding the central metropolitan areas with wide-spectrum radio jamming signals? To stop folk talking to each other. To prevent people from inciting each other. You can’t keep this up for long though, can you?
How long can you take a country like Egypt, Saudi Arabia or the like and kick it flying back to the disconnected dark ages? A day or so, yes — but with millions *relying* on basic connectivity to transact business and life’s daily requirements, it’s surely a highly risky strategy, calculated to wind up a lot of people, right? What do you think?