Egypt Increases Censorship, Blocks VoIP Services

When you’re online you want to browse, stream and download at maximum speed and without interruption. Yet all too often you find your Internet connection is slow. It’s not the speed you want, nor what you’ve signed up and paid for. A look at streaming speeds around the world reveals that speeds for video services, and Netflix in particular, are bad. Streaming speeds in Asia Pacific are inconsistent, for example, with some countries experiencing speeds well below the global average.

There are two ways your ISP can slow you down: throttling and peering agreements.


Throttling is when your ISP chooses to slow down (throttle) your Internet connection, based on your Internet activity.

How do they do it? ISPs often use deep packet inspection (DPI) servers to inspect your Internet traffic so they can identify what traffic they want to slow down or restrict. If you’re watching “too much” content or using a service that competes with something the ISP also offers (i.e., Netflix or HBO GO, which are often substitutes for video directly offered by the ISP), your ISP may decide it’s time to slow down your Internet connection. DPI has obvious privacy implications, as your ISP is inspecting your online activity (the sites you visit, shows you watch). Despite these risks, ISPs frequently use DPI to monitor Internet traffic and throttle user connections.

Why do they do it? ISPs throttle intentionally, because they don’t want to make the investments in their network to deliver the speeds they promise customers or to handicap competing “over the top” products. Even if you have “unlimited” or high bandwidth, if you’re using “too much” or the “wrong kind” of data the ISP may decide to throttle your connection and limit your usage. Throttling is particularly popular in regions of the world where ISP is in a monopoly or duopoly situation and doesn’t have much competition in the marketplace. Because users don’t have a viable option to switch ISPs, the ISP can reduce speeds without meaningful repercussion.

Peering Agreements – Intentionally Ignoring Congestion

Peering occurs when two ISPs connect and exchange traffic over their networks, and intentionally ignore network congestion.

How do they do it? The ISPs utilize each others’ networks to deliver content to users in the fastest manner possible, and a peering agreement generally dictates that traffic sent between the two networks maintains a ratio that both parties agree on. Since networks have large capacity, congestion rarely occurs and does so in a small number of locations – usually when the ISPs “interconnect with some last mile ISPs like Verizon.”

However, ISPs choose to intentionally ignore the congestion issues on their networks. As explained by Techdirt, it’s easy to clear up the congestion but ISPs choose not to:

“Verizon, Comcast and AT&T have deliberately made the decision not to make rather basic and inexpensive upgrades to their interconnection points that would solve the congestion problems with Netflix.”

Source: Level3 Proves That Verizon Is Absolutely To Blame For Netflix Congestion… Using Verizon’s Own Blog Post

To learn more about Peering agreements, please check out our infographic “Netflix vs. Comcast – The Peering Problem”

Why do they do it? When the ISP sells broadband and other services like their own sponsored video or streaming music, “over the top” alternatives become competitors. They intentionally ignore (and sometimes purposefully cause) congestion to degrade performance of the competing service. They can also require the service (i.e. Netflix) to pay them for facilitating the bandwidth needed to avoid congestion even though the user has already paid them for uncongested service.

Level 3 (a telecommunications company) illustrates that congestion occurs when the ISP’s content business is threatened by content providers, such as Netflix:

“The bit that is congested is the place where the Level 3 and Verizon networks interconnect. Level 3’s network interconnects with Verizon’s in ten cities; three in Europe and seven in the United States. The aggregate utilization of those interconnections in Europe on July 8, 2014 was 18% (a region where Verizon does NOT sell broadband to its customers). The utilization of those interconnections in the United States (where Verizon sells broadband to its customers and sees Level 3 and online video providers such as Netflix as competitors to its own CDN and pay TV businesses) was about 100%.”

By now you’ve probably heard about AVG’s updated privacy policy. It’s being widely reported that AVG, an antivirus software company, has updated its policy to explicitly inform its free users that it can – and will – sell their information. This information will be sold to advertisers and third parties to “make money,” and enable them to continue offering a free version of their software. The policy also states that AVG can collect data on their users’ search history. Although AVG asserts this data is “non-personal,” it has been proven that this type of data can be turned into identifying information.

While we applaud AVG’s transparency, this is still a disappointing – although unsurprising – practice coming form a company in the security space. Many people trust companies like AVG (who is also the third-largest antivirus software company in the world) to keep them safe online, and this privacy policy seems to be a violation of that trust. AVG says that users can turn off their data collection feature if they like, but the practice is still concerning. AVG’s updated privacy policy states:

“We collect non-personal data to make money from our free offerings so we can keep them free, including:
Advertising ID associated with your device
Browsing and search history, including meta data
Internet service provider or mobile network you use to connect to our products
Information regarding other applications you may have on your device and how they are used.”

The new policy will go into effect on October 15. AVG is currently fielding questions on a Reddit thread.

This news is yet another example of the cost of using a free provider, and an illustration of the adage “if it’s free, you are the product.” We recently outlined similar examples of free providers selling user data in our “I am Anonymous when I use a VPN: 10 Myths Debunked” article. At Golden Frog, we do not sell user data nor use third parties, and strive to maintain the highest level of trust among our customers.

We have been experiencing some issues with the VyprVPN app when customers upgrade to iOS 9.

Symptoms of the problem include a variety of errors, but it’s most likely that you’ll see repeatedly failing attempts to reconnect. You may also see an error stating “An unexpected error has occurred” after you log in.

Our development teams are aware of the problem and working on a fix. We have also filed a bug with Apple to make them aware of the issue and help facilitate a resolution. It is being reported that the iOS 9 bug has been breaking VPN connections, and iOS 9 users are having difficultly connecting through a variety of VPN providers.

In the meantime, please use the steps outlined below to get the app up and running on your iOS 9 device.

How to get the VyprVPN app running on iOS 9:

1. Log out of the app, then log back in. You can log out by accessing the Settings menu in the top right-hand corner of the app and scrolling to the bottom.

2. If that fails, log out of the app, uninstall and reinstall the app from the App Store.

3. If that fails, hard reset your device by pressing the Home + Power buttons simultaneously.

If you continue to experience issues, please contact our support team and we would be happy to further assist you.

We thank you for your patience in this matter.

There is a saying that innovation in the Chinese IT industry stopped after 2005. When you compare the market value of Chinese and US IT companies, it’s clear that IT companies in the US continuously emerge over time. These companies serve consumer needs and wants in a variety of niche markets and segments, even after giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook entered the marketplace. In China, however, the market is dominated by a few big players – Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, also known as BAT giants – and no significant new companies have entered since 2005.

What happened in 2005?

By now you’ve probably heard of the Great Firewall (GFW), a barrier that keeps Chinese Internet users from interacting easily with the outside world. Unfortunately, the Great Firewall is just part of the Chinese government’s overall control strategy. The official name for the entire, complex infrastructure of monitoring and censorship is called the “Golden Shield Project,” which is ostensibly a way to keep hackers and other rogue elements from harming Chinese Internet users. The Golden Shield Project aims to monitor all levels of information flow within the country and across China’s boarders. It was in 2005 that the Great Firewall finished its first-term building and began full operation, which is identical with the timing when new companies stopped entering the market.

So how does the Great Firewall influence the Chinese IT industry?

Web censorship fends off competition from powerful international players and gives local firms some breathing room, but an alarming result of censorship is that domestic IT giants form monopolies. These monopolies control the market and acquire startups as soon as they spot a good idea, making it very difficult for new companies to enter. For example, Baidu now dominates 80% of the search engine market since Google left China due to censorship. Youku is prevailing since YouTube is blocked. And it’s the same situation with Weibo, because Twitter is blocked. Dropbox’s Internet connection has been throttled so no one uses it, and as a result Seasun has become the leader in online storage service providers. Thus, every startup company has to ask themselves one question: What could I do if one of the BAT giants comes after my ideas and copies my product?

Monopoly is not entirely a result of online censorship, of course. Chinese regulations are still in the exploration and development process, and are not effective at prohibiting monopolies and discerning copyright infringement. On the other hand, not being able to access the latest information and exchange ideas globally, due to censorship, will ultimately be a huge loss for homegrown entrepreneurs. In January 2013, the Chinese government temporarily blocked GitHub, an open-source website where programmers around the world create and discuss projects, which is also home to lots of wall-escaping software. “GitHub is the primary tool that programmers learn and keep track of international trends… censoring it will only result in Chinese programmers being left behind, losing competitive edge and vision,” said by Kaifu Lee, founder of the Innovation Works, a Beijing-based innovation incubator. At various times, the Chinese government has blocked similar technical websites including Python, Google Code and Mashable. GitHub was unblocked a few days later after the huge protest on the Internet, but the potential of being blocked will always exist for any and every website.

The pervasive web censorship in China also increases the operation cost of startup companies. It doesn’t affect common costs like equipment, rent or hiring, but drastically increases the costs associated with finding workarounds to bypass China’s immense national Internet censorship.

Huge impact

The impact of the Great Firewall is beyond imagination. Access to an open and free Internet in the country is necessary, especially since the Chinese government expects to achieve industrial transformation and counts on the growth of high-tech companies. It’s imperative that people are able to escape the Internet restrictions in China that are having detrimental effects on both individuals and businesses.

Golden Frog’s Chameleon for VyprVPN allows Internet users to bypass Internet censorship in China and around the world.

Access to streaming content is often restricted based on geo-location around the world. This can be a problem if you’re traveling, trying to access content from outside your country’s borders, or if your country imposes Internet censorship. Access to content is most commonly blocked using one method: geo-blocking.


Geo-blocking is when content is restricted, or blocked, based on your location. As outlined in a Tech Radar Article, “Geo-blocking is simply the act of restricting access to websites and downloading applications based on the user’s location.” Geo-blocking can impact your ability to stream content such as sporting events or access news sites and social media sites, such as Twitter. While geo-blocking is widespread, it is accelerating the balkanization of the Internet.

How do they do it?
Geo-blocking is put in place by a service provider, website owner or government. When you visit a site online, your computer makes a request to the server. Your IP address – which contains information about your location – is sent along with the request. The site is then able to identify your geographic location, and can block your access based upon that location.

Why do they do it?

There are variety of reasons geo-blocks are put into place. Some restrictive governments (for example, China), impart sweeping, restrictive Internet censorship within their country’s borders. This censorship can include blocking access to social media sites like YouTube, and consequently the video on those sites. It can also include restricting access to international news sites. Some geo-blocks occur on content local to a particular country or region – for example a country-specific sporting event where the coverage is tailored towards local viewers. In the world of online television and movie content, geo-blocks are usually enacted due to licensing and rights agreements made by providers, but some argue geo-blocking keeps prices artificially high.

How to Improve Access

Golden Frog believes in an Internet devoid of censorship and location-based restrictions. At Golden Frog we believe that no one owns the Internet and it should be free and open to everyone, regardless of their location. Using a VPN from a trusted provider like VyprVPN enables you to bypass restrictions so you can stream the content you want from any location in the world.

The practice of streaming content with a VPN is increasingly being discussed by many world and business leaders.

In a Straits Times article that read “Virtual private network (VPN) technology cannot be outlawed even if it is used for accessing unauthorised content from overseas,” Britain’s Minister for Intellectual Property Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe agreed, responding, “You can’t outlaw a key technology.” Similarly, Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull MP stated on his website, “The Copyright Act does not make it illegal to use a VPN to access overseas content.”

In the US, Nate Cardozo, a Staff Attorney at the EFF, was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article saying, “We haven’t seen any prosecutions for watching Netflix.” And many others, including Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, have expressed disagreement with the geo-restrictions placed on streaming content: “The basic solution is for Netflix to get global and have its content be the same all around the world so there’s no incentive to [use a VPN],” he recently said.

VyprVPN allows you to generate an IP address that originates from any of our global VPN server locations, with over 50+ server locations worldwide to choose from. With VyprVPN, you can truly achieve freedom online for a reliable, global streaming experience.

What’s a brand advocate?

Brand Advocates are people who love the Golden Frog brand, our products – VyprVPN and Cyphr – and everything we stand for. Golden Frog brand advocates are our biggest fans.

What do brand advocates do?

Brand Advocates share our content, write or talk about us (both on and offline) and create buzz about Golden Frog in general.

Why should you join?

Brand Advocates receive a variety of special benefits including:

Special VyprVPN offer codes
Early access to Golden Frog’s beta program
The ability to submit guest blog posts
Quarterly virtual meetings
A special forum to interact with the Golden Frog team & other Brand Advocates

News broke yesterday that the Thai government is planning to control the country’s Internet with a system that closely resembles the Great Firewall of China. The Thai government is planning to set up a “single gateway Internet” that would allow them to control all information going in and out of the country. With the new system the government would no longer need to ask ISPs to block sites, but instead be able to do so themselves – leaving ISPs and users with no control. This proposal also includes amendments to existing Internet-related laws, making its reach even greater.

Thailand has imposed moderate Internet censorship in the past, restricting select content including pornography and mentions of the royal family. Censorship in the country increased in 2006, when the Royal Thai Army overthrew the government.

Another “Great Firewall” in Asia would be a very dangerous system to have in place. It would greatly limit the flow of information in and out of the Thailand, and impose restrictive censorship on people in the country. As a company that fights for a free and open Internet experience for users around the world, we’re not happy to hear this news. We’ll be watching closely to see how things progress.

Update – October 5, 2015

The Pheu Thai Party, Thailand’s “majority coalition party” has spoken out against the proposed Thai Great Firewall, or single Internet gateway. The party believes this system would several have negative impacts, including giving those in charge increased authority to block websites, threats to freedom of speech and slowed Internet connections or even total service collapse if the gateway was overloaded.

It was also reported that Thailand’s gamers have been fighting back against the proposal, and launched a coordinated DDoS attack on several government websites last week. This elicited a public response from the county’s Minister for Information, who attempted to reassure citizens the new gateway was intended to have positive impacts, such as faster speeds and cost reductions.

Update – June 3, 2016

The Thai government is amending the Computer Crimes Act, in an attempt to bolster censorship capabilities within the country. This moves includes “attacking website encryption” in the name of protecting safety and stability in the country.

We’re excited to announce that VyprVPN is now compatible with Android TV platforms!

Now you can use VyprVPN to encrypt your Internet connection and enhance your online privacy and security on your Android TV. VyprVPN for Android TV greatly improves your streaming experience by offering enhanced speeds and security while you stream content.

Setup is easy – just download and install VyprVPN for Android from the Google Play Store onto your Android TV, log in to your VyprVPN account and connect! Or you can download the APK from the Golden Frog website and sideload the app to your Android TV device.

VyprVPN is also available for other smart TV platforms including OpenELEC/Kodi and Apple TV (via the VyprVPN Router App). Visit our VyprVPN for TV page to learn more.

Did you know we have VyprVPN Apps for all your devices? Check out our VyprVPN Apps page to see how you can protect the Internet connection on all your devices with VyprVPN.

It’s being reported by some sources that Egypt has blocked most VoIP services and applications within the country. These include services like Skype, WhatsApp and Viber.

There are varying reports about why the services are blocked: “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.“

Others report it was done for financial reasons, on behalf of telecommunications companies: “The reasons given for this surprising move were that financial losses in telecommunication companies, caused by a shift away from regular calling and text messaging, made it necessary.”

Regardless of the reason, the blocking of VoIP services represents censorship in the region and a threat to Internet freedom. The new restrictions will make staying in touch with friends and family difficult for many, and will also be damaging to startups and other small businesses operating within the country.

Despite many reports of the ban, the government is denying it and referring to the ban as a “rumor.”

Egypt has some history of blocking sites, which can be traced back to the Egyptian revolution. In Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net 2014 report, Egypt was reported to have an Internet experience that is “partly free.” This description includes obstacles to access, limits on content and violations of user rights. The country has also experienced practices like suspended telecommunications services during military and political events, and strong “self-censorship” (people unwilling to speak out online because they fear the consequences). Additionally, news sources and journalists are reportedly sometimes detained, especially at anti-government or political events.

The report also states that in Egypt “Between 2008 and 2011, state police admitted to engaging in surveillance, online censorship, and cyberattacks.”