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Russian Federation: State Control of Internet Proposed

(Mar. 1, 2016) On February 11, 2016, the Russian media reported that the Ministry of Communications had drafted proposed legislation on state control of Internet traffic in the territory of the Russian Federation. While the text of the legislation has not been published, the Russian newspaper that obtained the explanatory note for the proposal stated that it is aimed at creating a state system for monitoring and registering the domain names and IP addresses of the Russian segment of the Internet (Runet), which are used to browse the Internet and access individual websites, in order to defend Runet from cyberattacks from abroad and make the current “chaotic” organization of the Internet in Russia more orderly.  (Bill on Internet Traffic Control in Russia Is Ready, NEWSRU.COM (Feb. 11, 2016) (in Russian).)

According to news reports, the legislation seeks to do the following:

  • create a government-maintained national registry of IP addresses – a Russian analog to the Dutch company RIPE NCC, the company that currently issues IP addresses to Internet service providers – which would provide a back-up to Russia-related information registered by RIPE NCC on IP addresses registered in Russia;
  • establish a traffic monitoring system that would provide information on connectivity between the Internet traffic points within Runet. Based on this information, the government would push Russian Internet service companies to build reserve channels, which would improve the network’s connectivity;
  • permit the operation and maintenance of international Internet channels and access to foreign traffic exchange points for those telecom operators who have a license allowing the transborder transfer of information. The explanatory note states that if this provision were enacted, the government would be able to offer protection and reserve channels for cross-border information exchange in the case of emergency; and
  • obligate Internet service providers and telecom operators to use only those traffic exchange points that are to be included in the state registry scheduled to be created pursuant to the legislation. (Id.)

While the draft law does not specify the financing and other details of this project’s implementation, it appears that one major Internet service company would be selected by the government to create the “unified Russian network.”  (Id.)

Simultaneously with the introduction of this legislation, a number of amendments to federal laws on communications and on information, information technology, and data protection were proposed, in order to help state authorities organize the routing of Internet traffic. A spokesperson for Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin said that “it would be wrong to say that the bill will impose government control over the Internet”; rather, it “is aimed at increasing Russian independence within the network and preventing unfriendly actions against the country undertaken by using the Internet.” (Kremlin Comments on Internet Traffic Bill – This Is Not Total Control, NEWSRU.COM (Feb. 11, 2016) (in Russian).)