Update: According to Reuters, the Internet connection and phone lines have now been restored in Syria.
The Syrian official news agency SANA said the problems were caused by a fault in some optical cabling. Other reports suggest the government has blamed the outage on “terrorists.” This is the country’s second Internet blackout in the last few months. The previous blackout happened in November, with very swift withdrawal of communications throughout the nation.
Internet and phone services, combined with social networks, can be a powerful organizational tool and make it tricky for a government to monitor or restrict rebel activities. It also makes it hard for a government to control what information reaches the outside world, a critical fact given how Syria has cracked down on journalists. The blackout seems similar to those that occurred in Iran, Egypt, and other nations as local governments tried to control rebel communications.