Cogent Disconnects From Russia, Breaking A Major Internet Backbone

Russia remains online, but should it?

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Image by Manik Berry/Fossbytes

Cogent, one of the biggest internet service providers in Russia disconnected the country amidst the Russia Ukraine war. While it doesn’t cut Russia off the internet, it limits Russia’s international internet bandwidth.

For the uninitiated, an internet backbone is a company that provides access to high-speed data transmission lines. A backbone provider essentially gives you the necessary infrastructure to connect to the internet.

Coming to Cogent, it is one of the world’s largest providers of intercontinental internet infrastructure. The company is based in the U.S. and has Russia’s biggest telcos among its clients.

Ukraine has been demanding that the world should cut off Russia, and global sanctions started the process already. Several big tech companies reacted to Russia, cutting off or limiting their ties with the country. Others like Elon Musk’s SpaceX made sure that Ukraine gets the internet it needs to stay connected to the world.

Cogent sent out an email to its Russian users, telling them the reasons for the shutdown. Here’s an excerpt from the mail.

In light of the unwarranted and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Cogent is terminating all of your services effective at 5 PM GMT on March 4, 2022. The economic sanctions put in place as a result of the invasion and the increasingly uncertain security situation make it impossible for Cogent to continue to provide you with service.

Should We Cut Off Russia’s Internet?

Cogent cuts ties with Russia

Cogent cutting ties with Russia means a majority of services will be affected in the country. Analyst Doug Madory’s blog says Cogent’s largest customers in Russia include Rostelecon, MegaFon, VEON, Rascom, and Transtelecom. Rostelecom is the single largest digital service provider in Russia.

As much as some may appreciate the idea of cutting Russia off the web, it’ll set a rather dangerous precedent. The EFF, in a piece, points out that wartime is a bad time to mess with the internet. EFF argues that a cut-off won’t just stop the propaganda, but also the flow of information.

It would mean cutting people off the tidbits of truth that can make it past the iron curtain of the Russian administration. And in these times, this cut-off would mean that Russia’s citizens will only see what their government wants them to see.

However, private companies like Cogent and others are likely to limit services as sanctions continue. Moreover, Russia is also under the threat of a global asset freeze. In case any of these scenarios comes true, the country will lose a major chunk of internet access.

Manik Berry

Manik Berry

With a Master’s degree in journalism, Manik writes about big tech and has a keen eye for political-tech news. In his free time, he’s browsing the Kindle store for new stuff read. Manik also adores his motorcycle and is looking for new routes on weekends. He likes tea and cat memes. You can reach him at [email protected]