Major US Internet backbone provider ends service with Russia

A major Internet backbone provider is ending business with its Russian customers due to the war in Ukraine, which is expected to disrupt and slow down Internet connectivity across Russia.

US-based Cogent Communications on Friday began halting its business with Russian customers Washington Post, The company is doing this to prevent the Kremlin from using Cogent’s fiber network to launch cyberattacks and is spreading propaganda justifying the government’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Our goal is not to hurt anyone. It is not just to empower the Russian government to carry another device in its war chest,” Cogent CEO Dave Schaefer told the newspaper.

The company also told PCMag that “Cogent has terminated its contracts with customers billing outside Russia,” the EU’s recently reported to Russia’s state-sponsored media outlets, such as RT and Sputnik News. Citing an effort to restrict disinformation from spreading.

“Cogent is not otherwise restricting or blocking traffic originating from or destined for Russia. Cogent continues to serve Ukraine.”

Map of Cogent's fiber network.

Cogent’s network map around the world.

Nevertheless, the company is effectively barring all Russian corporate customers from using its Internet backbone services. according to PostOf course, Cogent has “several dozen customers in Russia”, including state-owned telecommunications company Rostelecom, which markets itself as the country’s largest digital services provider. Two other customers include Russian mobile carriers Megafon and Von.

Cogent points out that its Russian customers may migrate to other Internet backbone providers. Still, the service termination is expected to drag down internet connectivity for Russian users in the coming days and weeks.

“Disconnecting its customers in Russia will not disconnect Russia, but it will reduce the amount of overall bandwidth available for international connectivity,” wrote Doug Madori at Kentik, a network monitoring company in San Francisco. “This reduction in bandwidth could lead to overcrowding as the rest of the international carriers try to take the slack.”

Degraded bandwidth may prevent many Russian users from receiving objective news and information about the war in Ukraine. As a result, some critics are already blasting Cogent, saying the decision could backfire.

“By cutting Russians off Internet access, they strip them of independent news sources and the ability to organize anti-war protests. Don’t do Putin’s dirty work for that.” tweeted Eva Galperin, director of cyber security at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

On the same day, the Kremlin also began blocking access to Facebook, cutting off Russian users from any other source information about the invasion in Ukraine.

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