The implications are massive. Lumen and Cogent collectively preside over nearly 600,000 miles of optical fiber that forms the piping for the global internet, with each boasting operations in more than 50 countries, according to their websites.
Both companies insist their moves were squarely directed 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.
“We as a company are a very strong believer in an open and uncensored internet,” Dave Schaeffer, Cogent’s CEO, said in an interview with CNN Business. “This was a very difficult decision.”
“We felt that the downside of having the possibility that these connections could be used offensively outweighed the negatives of terminating some services,” he added.
An unprecedented decision
Lumen, headquartered in Los Angeles, cited similar reasoning for its decision, which came a few days after Cogent’s.
“We decided to disconnect the network due to increased security risk inside Russia,” Mark Molzen, the company’s global issues director, said in an email. “We have not yet experienced network disruptions but given the increasingly uncertain environment and the heightened risk of state action, we took this move to ensure the security of our and our customers’ networks, as well as the ongoing integrity of the global Internet.”
It’s also an unprecedented decision in some ways. Schaeffer said Cogent has previously taken down certain websites and addresses at the requests of governments in several countries, including Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States, as long as the requests have a lawful basis.
“This is different,” he said, describing it as the first time the company has made a proactive move. “We do not look inside of our customers’ pipes, what they do with them is their business. In this case, we terminated the entire pipe.”