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Cogent moves to cut Russia from the Internet – report

One of the world's biggest Internet connectivity suppliers took steps to essentially sever Russia from the world's Internet backbone.

The dramatic development highlights an ongoing move by a large and growing number of Western companies to implement never-before-used sanctions against Russia for its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

And it also creates a challenge for other companies – including those in the telecommunications sector – across the globe that are aligned with Western governments: Should they too sever ties with Russia?

Megafon is a mobile phone operator in Russia.  (Source: Aleksey Zotov/Alamy Stock Photo)
Megafon is a mobile phone operator in Russia.
(Source: Aleksey Zotov/Alamy Stock Photo)

The move by Cogent, as first reported by The Washington Post, is perhaps the most noteworthy response so far among telecommunications companies to Russia's invasion.

Although Cogent officials did not respond to the Post's requests for comment, the publication cited a letter by Cogent to one of its Russian telecommunications customers: "In light of the unwarranted and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Cogent is terminating all of your services effective at 5 p.m. 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."

The publication noted that US-based Cogent is a major global supporter of Internet backbone connectivity – essentially connecting regional networks around the world together into a global web of communications. Among Cogent's customers in Russia is Rostelecom, the country's largest Internet provider. Importantly, though, The Washington Post reported that Cogent's move will likely disrupt Internet connections in Russia but not necessarily knock the nation offline.

Cogent is just the latest in a long line of tech and telecom companies to move against Russia.

For example, in a Friday blog post, Microsoft President and Vice Chair Brad Smith confirmed the company "will suspend all new sales of Microsoft products and services in Russia." However, The Verge noted that Microsoft's move doesn't necessarily cover existing service contracts for things like Windows, Office, Microsoft 365, Azure and Xbox offerings.

Other tech companies enacting similar blocks against Russia include Apple, Nokia, Ericsson and Dell.

How Russia – and countries sympathetic to Russia – might respond to these moves remains to be seen.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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