Burma, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Tajikistan, and - most recently - Egypt and Libya, are all countries where governments have controlled access to communication technologies as a way to hinder social mobilization during periods of political unrest. If you live in a country where this is a possibility, consider preparing for it.
Keep all your outmoded technology - it may come in handy. If you live in a country likely to experience shut down of internet service providers at the behest of the government, keep in mind that tools like modems and even fax machines might be useful again. You can use a modem to access the web via dial-up provided you have a working telephone line. As in Egypt during the January 25 uprising, supporters can make available international numbers that you can dial into to avoid your local ISPs (since they will be shut down). You'll also need an international dial in number, a working phone line, and bluetooth equipped cell phone and computer.
Stay tuned to the Telecomix activists' network, which began providing disconnected people with dial up links to the WWW when Egypt lost its connection, and again in Libya a month later.
Take all your contacts out of the cloud. It's a good idea to make sure you have a list of your contacts' emails printed out and readily available. For example, the We Are All Khaled Said Facebook page prepared for a possible Facebook cut-off in Egypt by asking supporters to share their email addresses and other contact information on a Google spreadsheet.
Gather contacts' phone numbers and write them down. Make sure to have a phone tree prepared ahead of time. A phone tree is "a prearranged, pyramid-shaped system for activating a group of people by telephone." Your contacts are divided into different groups with each group having a coordinator. These coordinators will be responsible for calling other members.
Start with those in your network with the biggest reach, for example community leaders such as politicians, imams, priests or rabbis, and then contact supporters with smaller networks but who you can count on to take to the streets and contact others
CB Radio and ham radios can be used to communicate. A CB ("citizens band") two-way radio service allows for communication over short distances. You don't need a license to operate one.
Ham radios--or amateur radios--are non-commercial and use designated radio bands to transmit communications. They are commonly used for voice transmissions and morse code. The requirements for receiving an amateur radio license vary country to country, so you will need to check what type of license you need to obtain. Ham radio signals are harder for governments to track and block. Learn more about becoming a ham radio operator with Wired's how-to wiki.
There is an active ham radio community that you can tap into right now and work with to develop a contingency plan for getting information out of your country in the event of a net shut down.
Use a fax machine to send and receive documents. Many printers now also come with fax machines built in, or you can use a standalone machine. Both parties need working phone lines and fax machines.
Prepare a local or "ad hoc" network connecting devices to each other even without the internet. Here are different ways to do this:
Turn to FidoNet, a networking system that can be used for communication between bulletin board systems. Mail and files can be exchanged via modems using a proprietary protocol. You must meet the technical requirements to joinFidoNet.
Check out Daihinia, an app that extends the range of a network of devices that aren't connected to the larger internet but are connected to each other. Adding a chat client, like Pidgin, to this allows activists to talk to one another.
Look into how you might be able to harness other chat clients as well. On a Mac you can use the "Rendezvous" feature in iChat to communicate with anyone on the network. In Windows use a third party app like Trillian, and Linux has a bunch of 3rd party apps you can use - note that this does require some technical knowledge, which is why it is all the more important to prepare in advance.
Packet radio is a radio communications protocol that lets you create long distance wireless networks between devices like ham radios - if you look into this option before hand, you might be able to create a network using radios.
Get involved with OPENMESH, a new project launched by investor Shervin Pishevar. So far, the forum is working as a place for engineers to offer solutions for building a mesh network in Egypt.
Have a basic radio on hand so that you can still listen to news. Portable scanners are also helpful for receiving police, fire, and rescue reports. They can be purchased online or at specialty electronics stores and usually cost around $100 USD. Walkie-talkies are handheld, two-way portable radios that can be used to communicate between two people within a short distance (usually at a range around 15-20 miles). A basic walkie-talkie is pretty cheap to purchase.
Check with neighbors and friends who may use different internet service providers (ISPs) and see if their connections are still up. For example, in Egypt one ISP (Noor) remained online when all other ISPs cut service.
Did all this, but still no connection? Landlines might still work. If they do, as we've seen in Egypt and Libya during the spring of 2010, an activist network like Telecomix may be providing dial up links to the global web