A new bill is currently being considered in Russia that could see the country disconnect from the global internet and create its own isolated network.
The country was initially looking into the possibility of creating its own internet to counteract the threat of being isolated from the global internet with no contingency plans in place. However, with the idea now seemingly gaining credence, Russia may go ahead and disconnect from the global internet anyway.
The idea is still in the infancy stage, and the government has noted the need to identify sources of additional funding from providers for the introduction of special equipment. But it seems the idea is gaining traction and may become reality sooner rather than later.
Why is Putin preparing Russia to turn off the internet?
The threat of Russia being cut off from the global internet exists in theory, since it is impossible to predict the actions of other countries. This was stated by Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting with representatives of Russian news agencies and the print media.
Putin acknowledged that such a move would inflict not only political, but also economic damage, as well as adversely affect the work of Western intelligence agencies.
He said: “They are sitting there, it’s their invention, and everyone listens, sees, and reads what they say, and accumulates this information, and they will not want to do this.” He continued to say that Russia needs to create independent network segments to counteract any threat of isolation.
Russian deputies have since passed a draft law on the sustainability of a Russian internet segment. According to the document, centralised internet management within Russia is possible so long as stability is maintained. It has been reported that the authorities will allocate 20 billion rubles for its implementation.
How long has this been in development?
The idea has been in development for quite some time within the framework of the Digital Economy project. Work has already been carried out to stabilise the internet in Russia, with the infrastructure of companies that process personal data, state authorities, banks, and many other socially significant industries being moved to data centers that are located in Russia.
The Russian military created its own internal infrastructure – which functions by bypassing the internet – a long time ago so that in the case of a shutdown of the Runet, everything will carry on as normal.
What will happen if Russia disconnects from the internet?
In the modern global economy, high-speed connections and the ability to exchange data are key in all economic areas without exception. Therefore, disconnecting from the global internet will mean a loss of openness in the Russian economy and will bring about true self-isolation.
Significant damage will be inflicted on exchanges whose operation is directly dependent on the situation in foreign markets. To a large extent, disconnection from the worldwide network will also affect the investment appeal of the Russian economy, since foreign investors will not be able to effectively manage and receive constant information about Russian markets.
Domestic companies will also suffer as they will not be able to fulfill foreign orders and scientists and programmers won’t be able to participate in international projects. All of this will have a detrimental effect on the prospects of the Russian economy.
The lack of constant communication will complicate the work of Russian agriculture businesses and farmers, who rely on foreign companies to acquire a significant proportion of seeds for sowing.
Disconnection from the internet concerns many industries that acquire foreign equipment and components and export their goods. Commercial ties will eventually be restored through new channels, but this will result in the loss of valuable time and money.
Examples of previous internet blocking cases
In recent history, you can find a few examples of heavy damage being caused as a result of the short-term shutdown of the internet.
In 2005, in one of the ports of Kenya, a carelessly cast anchor left six African countries without an internet connection. In the week that repair work was being carried out, the Kenyan economy lost $500 million.
A similar situation occurred in Egypt in 2011, when during the riots in Tahrir Square, the government turned off the internet. As a result, during the entire isolation period, the country was losing around $18 million a day.
Citizens of Russia believe that the new bill is a brazen violation of freedom and human rights. Russian isolation entails the use of slow and poor-quality connections. The government of Russia has decided that while the equipment for the implementation will be provided by the state, the installation will have to be organised by the providers themselves. The entire burden will therefore be placed on the shoulders of users, because the providers will not want to work for free and will charge for the installation.
People will also have to pay more for services that can no longer be carried out on the global internet. Understanding this, the citizens of Russia began to protest against the proposal. Around 15,000 people campaigned at a recent rally against the isolation of the internet in Moscow. Opposition groups reported on the arrest of participants in the rally in Sakharov Square.
The proposal has not yet been adopted, but it is seemingly already working against the Russian government.
This issue will affect literally all young people and citizens of active working age who rely on the international exchange of information, goods, and communications.
Russian citizens may be forced to take their innovations and talents abroad. The number of professional migrants from Russia will increase, depriving the country of the possibility of innovative breakthroughs in all areas.
In my opinion, there will be no internet disconnection in Russia. The economies of every country in the world are tied to world relations, and the internet has become an object of business. Millions of goods and services are sold and bought on the internet every day, and this global web is already inextricably linked with each of us.
The Constitution of the Russian Federation states that all citizens have the right to search, receive, and transfer information. It is therefore the duty of the state to ensure these rights.
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