Internet backbone provider Cogent cuts off service to Russia

Some worry the move will prevent Russians from accessing independent news on the war in Ukraine.

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Cogent Communications, an internet backbone provider that carries approximately 25 percent of all global web traffic, has begun cutting ties with Russian businesses in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. The company told The Washington Post it was doing so to prevent the Kremlin from using its network to carry out cyberattacks and spread misinformation about the ongoing conflict.

“Our goal is not to hurt anyone. It’s just to not empower the Russian government to have another tool in their war chest,” Cogent CEO Dave Schaeffer told the outlet, adding “it was a tough decision.” In a statement to ZDNet, the company said it was also complying with European Union sanctions against Russia Today and Sputnik. “Cogent is not otherwise restricting or blocking traffic originating from or destined for Russia. Cogent continues to provide services to Ukraine,” the company added.

The move is expected to disrupt and slow down internet connectivity. Some of Cogent’s Russian clients include state-owned telecom operator Rostelecom, one of the country’s largest internet providers, and wireless carriers Megafon and Veon. Cogent said it was working with some of those companies to provide them extensions.

Some experts worry the move will also prevent Russians from accessing information that doesn’t come from the Kremlin. “I would like to convey to people all over the world that if you turn off the Internet in Russia, then this means cutting off 140 million people from at least some truthful information,” Mikhail Klimarev, the executive director of Russia’s Internet Protection Society, told The Washington Post. “As long as the Internet exists, people can find out the truth. There will be no Internet — all people in Russia will only listen to propaganda.”

To that point, Russians already can’t access Facebook and Twitter after the country’s government moved to restrict those platforms. They may soon lose access to Wikipedia as well.