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Putin signs bill for ‘sovereign Russian internet’

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a meeting with Russian businessmen at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 26, 2018. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Putin has signed a bill that makes an “independent Russian internet” mandatory. The country does not want it to depend on other countries for the functioning of the internet. Traffic must pass through the telecom supervisor.

Although the law has now been signed, the technology to disconnect the country from the rest of the world is not yet ready. A test of the autonomous ‘Runet’ has yet to take place, but no date has yet been set for that. The Financial Times writes that this should happen sometime later this year. All internet providers in the country participate.

Russian senators submitted the bill in December 2018. The call for an autonomous Russian internet would not only have come from the desire for autonomy but also from the felt need to defend the country; there is a certain fear that foreign powers can cut off Russia from the rest of the internet.

All internet traffic of the Runet must go through the nodes of Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal telecom authority. Critics fear that the measure is a disguised plan to make censorship on the internet easier for the Russian authorities. The country has been trying to block various websites and services for some time, which is not always possible. Just over half of the Russians would be against the law.

The Russian Court of Audit gives a negative opinion about the law because the implementation leads to costs that are not included in the government budget. The costs for an autonomous Runet are estimated at 20 billion rubles, equivalent to 270 million euros.

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