Internet backbone Cogent cuts Russia connectivity

Biz cites 'unwarranted and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine' ... also crippling sanctions


Cogent Communications will pull the plug on its connectivity to customers in Russia in response to President Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

The US-based biz is one of the planet's largest internet backbones – the freeways of the internet – and says it carries roughly a quarter of global 'net traffic.

Its clients range from small businesses to mobile carriers and broadband ISPs. Cogent's role is to pipe hundreds of terabits of your internet data around the world every second. Russian state-owned Rostelecom is among the dozens of customers Cogent has in the country.

On Friday, CEO David Schaeffer told Reuters his corporation will gradually withdraw internet service from those clients. Some customers asked to be excluded from the crackdown, and may be granted continued access.

This termination of service will force those axed clients to seek other sources of network capacity. As a knock-on effect, Russian netizens could experience slower or interrupted internet connections as their ISPs and carriers react to the news. If more backbones follow in Cogent's steps, Russia will be increasingly cut off from the global internet.

Which would make President Putin's attempt to censor the web a lot easier.

We're told Cogent did not want to be, for one thing, used for "outbound cyber attacks or disinformation" from Russia, though it did not want to cut Russian citizens at home from the wider internet and its journalistic media and resources. It is feared the Kremlin will step up its efforts to influence netizens and extract intelligence from Western systems as trade and financial sanctions bite, though there are so far little or no indications of a marked escalation in cyberwarfare.

"Our goal is not to hurt anyone," Schaeffer told The Washington Post in an earlier interview. "It's just to not empower the Russian government to have another tool in their war chest."

In a letter to customers, obtained by the newspaper, Cogent said it was taking action on a moral point ... and also because the West has slapped sanctions on Russia as punishment for occupying Ukraine:

In light of the unwarranted and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Cogent is terminating all of your services effective at 5pm 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. All Cogent-provided ports and IP address space will be reclaimed as of the termination date.

We understand this 1700 UTC deadline morphed into a rolling disconnection after customers asked for sufficient time to switch over to alternative providers.

The list of tech giants cutting Russia loose as a result of the bloody occupation continues to grow – Microsoft, AMD, Intel, TSMC, Apple, Google, Amazon, Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, SAP, Oracle, and Lenovo, for instance – plus corporations in automotive, financial services, entertainment, oil, and more, all amid fresh trade restrictions in place against the Putin regime by America and Europe.

DNS overlord ICANN yesterday rejected Ukraine's request to delete all Russian web domains. Russia is also said to be contemplating its own internet-alike, dubbed Runet.

The Ukrainian government has said more than 2,000 civilians have died in armed conflict with Russia since the invasion began on February 24, though the UN has recorded around 230. ®


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