Russia Says Real-World Tests for “Sovereign Internet” Went Well

By Bill Toulas / July 23, 2021

Russia’s work towards developing a reliable “sovereign internet” is still underway, and according to the latest reports that come from local media, a very important test has just been concluded. Between June 15 and July 15, 2021, the so-called “Runet” was tested extensively with the involvement of several service providers and communication infrastructure agencies in Russia, and the results are positive. The purpose of the tests was to determine how reliable “Runet” would be in the event of external distortions, blockages, or even threats.

The participants in the exercise include Rostelecom, Transtelecom, and ER-Telecom Holding, as well as the Ministry of Digital Industry, Roskomnadzor, VimpelCom, MTS, MegaFon, and others. RBC, which reports on the topic, claims to have reviewed documents that validate the authenticity of the tests but clarifies that official results will only be made available to the public after August, if not later. Members of the participating workgroup denied providing any comments to journalists.

In the same set of documents, RBC saw an exercise that involved the physical disconnection of the Russian part of the internet from the rest of the world, which allegedly had successful results. This was Runet's main goal since the inception of the idea, which dates back to the Spring of 2019. Isolating the Russian internet from the rest of the world meant that the local government would have the power to censor, scrutinize, identify, and control everything without having to negotiate with foreign entities.

A law that made this ambitious plan legal and constitutional came a couple of months later, but the first traffic blocks, reroutes, and deep packet inspection systems that were tested back then proved that implementing “Runet” would be a lot more challenging than initially estimated. Two years after that, Russia appears to be stuck in the testing phase, and even if the local media report success, it is unknown when and if the state will ever proceed with a full roll-out of the “Runet.”

Most likely, they’re just looking to develop and maintain a backup system, for now, as something that would give the country a reliable auxiliary option in the case of an emergency like large-scale interruptions of any kind.

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