The implications are enormous. Lumen and Cogent collectively manage nearly 600,000 miles of fiber optics that form the piping of the global Internet, each with operations in more than 50 countries, according to their websites.
Both companies insist that their actions were directly aimed at the Russian government and not the Russian people, and any impediment to the latter’s ability to access outside information is an unfortunate side effect.
“As a company, we strongly believe in an open and uncensored Internet,” said Dave Schaeffer, CEO of Cogent, in an interview with CNN Business. “It was a very difficult decision.”
“We felt that the downside of having the possibility that these connections could be used offensively outweighed the downside of terminating certain services,” he added.
An unprecedented decision
Lumen, headquartered in Los Angeles, cited similar reasoning for its decision, which came days after Cogent’s.
“We have decided to disconnect the network due to an increased security risk inside Russia,” Mark Molzen, director of global issues for the company, said in an email. “We have yet to experience any network disruptions, but given the increasingly uncertain environment and heightened risk of state action, we have made this decision to keep our networks safe and secure. those of our customers, as well as the continued integrity of the global Internet.”
It is also an unprecedented decision in some respects. Schaeffer said Cogent previously took down certain websites and addresses at the request of governments in several countries, including Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States, provided the requests had a legal basis.
“It’s different,” he said, describing it as the first time the company has taken a proactive step. “We don’t look inside our customers’ pipes, what they do with them is their business. In this case, we’ve finished the whole pipe.”