Stories from Abroad

Since 2010, the Benton Foundation and the New America Foundation have partnered to highlight telecommunications debates from countries outside the U.S.

In Ukraine War, Keeping Phones Online Becomes Key Defense

As Russian artillery fire rained on Mariupol, Ukraine, the largest mobile-network operator in the country said repair crews worked to keep its last working cellular tower in the city from going offline for a few extra days.

Viasat satellite hack knocks thousands of people offline

Since 2011, the KA-SAT satellite has helped homeowners, businesses, and militaries across Europe get online. However, as Russian troops moved into Ukraine during the early hours of February 24, satellite internet connections were disrupted. A mysterious cyberattack against the Viasat-owned satellite’s ground infrastructure—not the satellite itself—plunged tens of thousands of people into internet darkness. Almost a month after the attack, the disruptions continue. Thousands still remain offline in Europe and companies are racing to replace broken modems or fix connections with updates.

Russia is risking the creation of a “splinternet”—and it could be irreversible

Russia’s disconnection from the online services of the West has been as abrupt and complete as its disconnection from real-world global trade routes. The moves have raised fears of a “splinternet” (or Balkanized internet), in which instead of the single global internet we have today, we have a number of national or regional networks that don’t speak to one another and perhaps even operate using incompatible technologies. That would spell the end of the internet as a single global communications technology—and perhaps not only temporarily.

Digital inclusion unlocks a more resilient recovery for all

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit developing countries the hardest and recovery is continuing to accentuate the growing digital divide. When populations have affordable access to the internet and the skills to use it, digital adoption opens endless possibilities for a more resilient recovery. Digital technologies can supercharge inclusive growth but we must accelerate investment, so they reach their full potential. Governments need to make connectivity affordable, reliable, and accessible by all. In addition, people must have the skills they need to use digital technologies.

Can Russia build its own ‘Great Firewall’?

As the Kremlin moves to block or throttle more foreign websites and Russian citizens rush to deploy workarounds such as virtual private networks, concern is growing that Moscow plans to recreate Beijing’s tough restrictions — known collectively as the “Great Firewall” — that shield Chinese citizens from much of the broader internet. But Russia likely possesses neither the infrastructure nor the technical capabilities to mirror China’s relative success in walling off its citizens from the web.

Tech's globalist dream is dying

The tech world order that came together in the '90s at the Cold War's end is falling apart as a new rift between Russia and the West opens and a great retrenchment begins. The breakup of the USSR in the early '90s opened an era in which internet use rapidly spread around the globe and US tech companies viewed the entire planet as both factory floor and market. Working from that assumption helped a handful of companies grow to previously inconceivable size, wealth and power.

Russia Rolls Down Internet Iron Curtain, but Gaps Remain

Russia is dropping a digital iron curtain over its population, creating a big, new fracture in the global internet—but there are still big gaps in President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to cut off the country from online information accessible in much of the rest of the world. At the same time, more Western companies are pulling back some digital services from Russia under pressure from Western sanctions. It is too early to say how permanent the restrictions will be.

Why Russia’s “disconnection” from the Internet isn’t amounting to much

Rumors of Russian Internet services degrading have been greatly exaggerated, despite unprecedented announcements recently from two of the world’s biggest backbone providers that they were exiting the country following its invasion of Ukraine. Just as ISPs provide links connecting individuals or organizations to the Internet, backbone services are the service providers that connect ISPs in one part of the world with those elsewhere. These so-called transit providers route massive amounts of traffic from one ISP or backbone to another.

EU and UK open antitrust probe into Google and Meta over online ads

Regulators in Europe and the UK have opened an antitrust probe into a deal between Google and Meta/Facebook on online advertising, in the latest effort to tackle the market power of the world’s biggest technology companies. The move follows US antitrust investigators who are also probing an agreement informally known as “Jedi Blue.” Google and Facebook have been accused of working together to carve up advertising profits, acting together to buttress their businesses.