Russia’s Dramatic Internet ‘Cut-Off’ Experiment From Global Network

by Pushpa Naresh

The government of Russia has made public an experiment which will affect the online independence of its citizens. It is considering a Net Independence Plan where data will not cross international borders and all communications between Russian citizens, organizations will be routed internally. It is most likely that such a sensitive operation will be completed before April 1, though there is no official communication with regard to the timeline of the digital experiment.

Such an experiment is the offshoot of a 2018 draft law by the Duma endorsed making elaborate technical changes for independent operations, according to RosBiznesKonsalting (RBK) a Russian news agency.

Cyber Defences or Controlling digital lives?

The Russian Parliament has mandated the draft law – Digital Economy National Program – which requires that the Russia ISPs can operate even if there is an unexpected attack from other nations such as the current embargo by the US on the digital front.

Fear of being isolated by competing powers appears to be the single-point rationale behind the unheard of experiment ever.

BBC on why the grandiose experiment is happening?

BBC reporter, Zoe Klienman had this insight to share on the ‘unplug’ experiment in Russia: “What Russia wants to do is to bring those router points that handle data entering or exiting the country within its borders and under its control- so that it can then pull up the drawbridge, as it were, to external traffic if it’s under threat – or if it decides to censor what outside information people can access.”

It is Klienman’s interpretation that one of the biggest experiments on a similar line is that of the impenetrable Chinese firewall, a highly effective censorship tool.

The closest experiment to internet downtime was accidental, back in 2018, when island nation – Mauritania went offline for two days because of the fiber cable cut.

Russian regulator

The draft law will be implemented by the Russian telecom regulator – Roskomnazor. The objective will be monitor traffic and block content which is prohibited thereby ensuring traffic remains within Russia and there is no re-routing to servers located overseas.

As per the RBK report, there was disagreement only with the technical aspects of the proposed law and the test disconnection will establish the actual operations of the network.

However, there is a consensus that international politics is another reason for this experiment. Pressure from NATO countries against alleged cyber attacks by Russian nationals troubles the socialist nation, and the Draft law is seen to be an outshoot of this major experiment.

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