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Based on new draft legislation, here’s how Russia would actually build its own, autonomous Internet

Meduza
Data center owned by Mail.Ru Group
Data center owned by Mail.Ru Group
Andrey Stepnov / PhotoXPress.ru
The supposed story. The Russian authorities are abandoning the global Internet under the pretext of national security, and the country is transitioning to the use of its own domain name system and Internet traffic routing, where only Russian websites will work. The federal media regulator, Roskomnadzor, will be responsible for centralizing the state’s control over this isolated segment of the World Wide Web, and all major Russian tech companies have agreed to the new rules of the game.

This scenario is possible, if federal lawmakers adopt new legislation drafted by deputy Andrey Lugovoy and senators Andrey Klishas and Lyudmila Bokova, which they submitted to the State Duma on December 14.

How everything would work (based on the text of the legislation)

Roskomnadzor and the Communications Ministry would develop new requirements and rules for all major organizations that sustain the Internet in Russia:

  • Internet providers
  • The owners of cross-border communication lines (that cross Russia’s state border)
  • The owners of technological communication networks
  • The owners of anonymous system numbers (large groups of IP addresses with a single routing policy)
  • The owners of traffic exchange points

Under the law, Russia would create a national domain name system and develop special rules for Internet traffic routing. Having its own domain name system (which translates more easily memorized domain names to resources' numerical IP addresses) is supposed to guard against the potential seizure of Russia’s .ru and .рф domains, and developing its own routing system would protect Internet providers against the seizure of the IP-address blocks allocated to them.

All Russian Internet providers would be required to install the technical means to counter threats to the Russian Internet. With their help, the state would independently block all banned online resources in Russia, and monitor compliance with the new traffic routing rules and the use of the new national domain name system. This would free Internet providers from the responsibility of blocking banned resources online, and from any liability for service failures caused by these new “technical means.” The tools needed for this new monitoring system, moreover, would be provided to ISPs free of charge, subsidized entirely by the state.

Russia would also get a traffic-exchange registry, and companies would be forbidden from using traffic exchange points that aren’t on the registry. The exchange points themselves would be banned from connecting to companies that don’t comply with Russia’s Internet rules — both the new regulations and the old regulations (including requirements under “SORM”).

A new federal agency called the Center for Monitoring and Managing Public Communication Networks, created as part of Roskomnadzor’s radio frequency service, would control the new matrix of Internet regulations, collecting the needed information from Russian companies (about their infrastructures, their IP addresses, and so on), operating the traffic-exchange registry, and — when necessary — adjusting the country’s traffic routing.

According to the draft legislation, the government would refine this system’s efficiency through regular drills (participation in these exercises would be mandatory).

How the bill’s co-authors justify this initiative

In the draft law’s explanatory note, the co-authors name the United States as Russia’s main Internet threat, arguing that Washington has “directly and baselessly” accused Moscow of carrying out hacker attacks on the U.S. “In these conditions, we must take protective measures to safeguard the long-term and stable operation of the Internet in Russia, and to improve the reliability of Russia’s Internet resources,” the lawmakers say.

Roskomnadzor likes this legislation

Alexander Pankov, Roskomnadzor's deputy director, told the website Vzglyad that “improving the reliability of this strategic infrastructure is an extremely important task.” Speaking to Gazeta.ru, Pankov said, “Initially, the Internet was a medium for toys and communication, but now financial transactions, business, telemedicine, and a lot more are all tied to this network. If the Internet were to ‘crash’ today, it would be a real catastrophe.”

Pankov, incidentally, says the term “autonomous systems” (which appears in the draft legislation) is “not connected to the separation of the Russian Internet from the rest of the world.” “It’s a bit much to say autonomy is tantamount to ‘separation’ in this case,” he claimed.

Text by Denis Dmitriev

Translation by Kevin Rothrock