Communications Ministry mulls total control over Russian sector of the web - reports

© Vitaliy Belousov
The Communications Ministry has prepared a bill that formally defines critical digital infrastructure and allows only Russian companies to own the hardware and databases that control the .ru and .рф domains of the internet, mass media report.

Russian business newspaper Vedomosti reported on Friday that the Communications Ministry was proposing to change the Russian Law on Communications, with a separate article detailing the measures aimed at regulating the internet in the .ru domain and in the Cyrillic .рф domain.

Such measures would include defining critical internet structures consisting of the national domain zone as well as the infrastructure required for its operation, and the state system that would back up the information about internet exchange points, IP addresses and autonomous networks.

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The law would also order that internet exchange points in the Russian sector of the web could only be owned by Russian companies. However, the current edition of the bill allows for foreign ownership of up to 20 percent of these points in future – a system similar to the one used in the current Russian Law on Mass Media. The rules are even stricter for national domain registers – the owners of such companies can be only Russian entities founded by the Communications Ministry and financed from a special “Universal Service Reserve” fund which, in turn, will be formed with a 1.2 percent income excise levied on all telecom corporations operating in the country.

Reports that the coordination of the Russian national domain in the internet could be put under the control of state structures had earlier been circulated by business daily Kommersant, but Vedomosti has now provided more details on the bill.

In March this year Russian Communications Minister Nikolay Nikiforov said in an interview with RT that the US government and certain US-registered corporations had a disproportionately strong influence on the internet, and the minister allowed for measures to establish Russia’s independence in this sphere.

He pointed out that in 2014 the US authorities promised to hand over control of one of the most critical parts of internet infrastructure – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – from the US Department of Communications to a multi-stakeholder collective, but this move was later postponed. “With this prolonged monopolization, many countries in the world are working on technical solutions that would protect national segments of the internet from a possible external destructive action. They are creating backup infrastructures, which respond to a disruption – intentional or accidental – and prevent national segments from being blocked,” Nikiforov said.

The minister also added that the Russian government and private companies were heavily investing in the internet, and that the desire to protect these investments was only natural.

READ MORE: Russia working on ways to protect its internet due to US online dominance – Com. Minister to RT

In 2014 the Russian president’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, commented on media reports claiming that the authorities allegedly had plans to “disconnect Russia from the global internet.” Peskov dismissed the reports as false, but noted that Russian special services and IT corporations were working to improve cyber security due to the unpredictable behavior of the West.

We all know who the chief administrator of the global internet is. And due to its volatility, we have to think about how to ensure our national security,” the official stated. It’s not about disconnecting Russia from the worldwide web, but about “protecting it from possible external influence.”