Top 5 Ways to Bypass Internet Shutdowns

If your Internet access is in danger, Tom Merritt has five tips for regaining free connections.

Image: NicoElNino/Adobe Stock

Previously, a government shutting down internet access was an extreme decision taken in times of severe upheaval. But the practice has become increasingly common – it has been used in elections, student exams and more.

Sometimes it’s the whole internet, but more often, and in the longer term, it blocks certain services.

But you can take steps to get free information if service is affected. And it’s good to plan ahead. Here are five tips to help you stay online during an internet outage:

  1. vpn. Get a good one; one you can trust. You may even need two of them in case one is successfully blocked itself. Keep in mind that a VPN does not protect privacy. Since the company running the VPN still sees your data, it only protects traffic from blocking attempts on open wifi.
  2. A mesh network. If the internet is completely blocked, a VPN may not help. Mesh networks are another workaround, and one that definitely needs some planning ahead. Fireside Messenger is an example of a way to communicate with each other by creating a mesh network between the phones’ Bluetooth and WiFi connections. Of course, these only work where there are enough devices to keep the network running. They are also not more secure than the Internet, so care should be taken.
  3. International SIM cards. If you are near a border, you may be able to get service from a neighboring country.
  4. Side loading applications. This can help you bypass blocks on particular services. This is especially useful for Android, where the operating system allows sideloading. Jailbreaking iPhone isn’t as useful as it used to be. When sideloading, remember that no one checks apps to make sure they’re legit, so be careful what you install.
  5. Satellite content. One day that might mean services like Starlink, but more often than not these days it’s just used to receive content. A service called Knapsack, for example, broadcasts packets via satellite that can be received on a normal satellite dish. You can get news, YouTube videos and such, but it’s only one way, so no email.

Hats off to Vittoria Elliott at restofworld.org for great information and advice. Hopefully you can avoid stoppages and crashes, but if you can’t, this should help.

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