Last week, Luzin points out, the Russian Duma adopted amendments to the 2014 law governing satellite-based Internet (government.ru/docs/35851/), amendments that appeared to change only terminology but that in fact open the way to new restrictions against satellite-based Internet delivery.
Under the terms of the old law, Moscow required satellite Internet services to maintain a facility on Russian territory so that the Russian government could regulate them. Now, it is extending its reach as far as restrictions go from the distributions of such programming to those who consume it.
This step is part of the implementation of the 2016 Russian government doctrine on information security (rg.ru/2016/12/06/doktrina-infobezobasnost-site-dok.html) which put in simplest terms require that “all information systems in the country be put under Kremlin control and that any horizontal communications must be sanctioned from above.”
According to Luzin, the earlier requirement that foreign companies involved in the delivery of satellite-based Internet maintain offices in Russia was never about “the development of infrastructure but rather exclusively about control.” It is a step that China has already taken, but now Russia, like China, is taking another in anticipation of technological breakthroughs.
At present, there are only “a few tens of thousands” of Russians receiving satellite television. It is far too expensive especially in comparison with cable. But the price difference is falling, and ever more Russians are using it, especially as Moscow moves to impose tighter controls on cable delivery. Something similar is happening with the Internet more generally.
Moscow’s fears have been heightened by global satellite delivery systems like OneWeb (rbc.ru/technology_and_media/26/02/2019/5c73f8109a79470cf4ea49c2?from=from_main), Luzin continues, systems that will allow Russians and everyone else direct access to the Internet unmediated by the state.
Russian government moves to require the registration of smartphones, he says, can easily be expanded to computers, even if this is likely to be a case of defense rushing to try to deal with new advances in the offense (rg.ru/2018/12/06/registraciia-mobilnogo-telefona-budet-stoit-100-rublej.html).
Moscow’s task is complicated by the fact that it wants to make use of satellite-based Internet delivery for its own officials while cutting off the population’s access to it. Its progress in the first direction helps to explain its fears of the second and also suggests that the regime is likely fighting a losing battle on this front as well as on others.