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Opinion splits on Russia's internet isolation

Internet exchange globe NEW.jpg
Internet exchange globe NEW

As the world moves to isolate Russia from business, finance, culture and sport, calls have been made for the measures to extend to the internet.

As Capacity reported earlier this week, Andrii Nabok, who heads fixed broadband at the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine (MDTU), asked ICAAN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), to introduce “strict sanctions against the Russian Federation”, including blocks on Russian domain names.

There have been further calls to block everything from Russia's Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) to content flowing in and out of the country, with some OTTs confirming they will no longer distribute there.

However, yesterday, Andrew Sullivan, president and CEO of global non-profit the Internet Society (ISOC), published a blog post, stating: "These proposals miss something fundamental about the internet: it was never designed to respect country borders."

He also wrote: "The Internet Society must resist these calls, no matter how tempting. The internet remains our best hope to communicate among the peoples of the world."

He isn't alone in his view. In a statement global IX operator DE-CIX has told Capacity that "imposing sanctions on Russian networks in Frankfurt is more likely to hurt the Russian people’s access to free and truthful information than it is to have any impact at all on Russian politics or government or military communications."

DE-CIX does not operate any infrastructure, telecoms lines or IXs in Russia but does offer services via a local partner. In total, and including DE-CIX Frankfurt, it is present in 34 locations.

"We are part of the global neutral infrastructure that makes up the internet. Alongside us, there are hundreds more internet exchanges. We see it as our responsibility to keep this open and neutral system available to enable communication in a bilateral sense.

"We believe that maintaining lines of communication is essential in times of crisis to guarantee the free and independent flow of information," the statement continued.

DE-CIX said that cutting its connections to Russia via DE-CIX Frankfurt "would also not bring the internet traffic to and from Russia to a standstill; rather, it would take other pathways along routes that are not necessarily neutral and potentially easier to use for the purposes of propaganda".

While DE-CIX said it was closely monitoring the situation it added: "We are deeply shocked by the aggression and violence we have witnessed against the Ukraine in the last few days. Our hearts go out to all those who are suffering and grieving in this terrible war."

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