Communications Ministry proposes isolated web for state agencies

RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov
Russian communications agency has prepared a bill that orders to create a separate information network for the state administration, security and defense, totally isolated from the internet for the sake of greater protection.

The draft document regulating the project has been posted online for public discussion, the deadline for which is set at July 13.

The bill introduces the term ‘Integrated Communications Networks’ (ICN). It also reads that the state web must have centralized management and have no connection with foreign communication networks or with networks that have public access.

The ministry suggested that the ICN operator be decided by the Russian president upon advice from the Military-Industrial Commission. The prices for its services will be determined by government decrees.

The project is to be financed from the state budget and all technology and hardware used in it must be agreed with the country’s Federal Security Service, the FSB. The same agency must also determine the general requirements for the new network, such as stability and protection from non-sanctioned access.

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RIA Novosti quoted communications industry sources as saying that if the bill is passed, the most likely candidate for the contract of setting up the ICN would be the state-owned corporation Rostelecom. A company spokesman said it had extensive experience in executing large-scale government projects and that it was ready to become the ICN operator if such decision were made.

Soon after the Communication Ministry’s bill was posted online for public discussion business daily Kommersant reported the government’s alleged plans to finance the project from a special tax of 0.9 percent of income levied on private operators in the communications sector.

The newspaper referred to an unnamed source described as a participant in the market. This source elaborated that the idea of the new fund and tax belonged to some state agency involved in the future project, but not the Communications Ministry.

Representatives of the Communications Ministry said that their bill did not mention any new funds or reserves as well as new taxes. A source close to the FSB told the newspaper it was unlikely that the security agency was behind the idea.

For the FSB it makes no sense to create such reserves. The existing laws do not allow the security service to use its means. Besides, the FSB has a lot of tasks that are of greater importance,” Kommersant quoted the security source as saying.

Representatives of major Russian communications operators declined to comment.

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Last week Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered to create a protected segment of the internet that could be used only by Russian bodies of state power and ensure the complete protection of data in this segment through encryption. The project must be completed before January 1, 2018. The first users of the ‘Russian segment of the internet’ will be both chambers of the parliament, courts, prosecutors and Audit Chamber.

Putin first urged the creation of additional measures of information protection in October last year at the session of Russia’s Security Council. Communications Minister Sergey Nikiforov said then that the presidential order would be fulfilled, but emphasized that Russian citizens should not fear that their country could be one day separated from global internet.

Such isolation is not possible under any circumstances,” the minister said.