Russia to impose fines for using foreign satellite internet

Russian officials are continuing their attempts to block all the ways to connect to the internet that cannot be monitored by the state.

The Ministry of Digital Development and Communications has drafted a bill to impose fines for connecting to satellite internet in circumvention of the federal censorship agency’s blocking mechanisms.

According to the bill, which was published on the official legal information portal, the use of “satellite communication networks under the jurisdiction of foreign states” will be punishable by fines equivalent to around $300 for officials, $3,000 for sole proprietors, and $15,500 for legal entities.

The fines will be imposed on both users and on Russian communications operators if they use satellite internet to bypass the rules imposed by the government in February.

All traffic originating from the satellite devices of subscribers in Russia, even foreign subscribers who are “roaming” in the country, must pass through a Russian communication operator’s interface station – a ground station that acts as an intermediary between the satellite and the subscriber’s device when picking up a signal from space. This station must also be located within Russia. Whereas previously this rule only applied to the operators of satellite mobile communications, it now applies to all operators.

In order to prevent the American OneWeb satellite communication system, which is expected to provide the entire planet with high-speed internet by 2027, from being accessible in Russia, the State Duma (Russia’s parliament) introduced a bill last year that prohibits the importing of satellite communication terminals without a license.

Without waiting for the bill to be passed, the State Commission for Radio Frequencies introduced a corresponding ban in January this year.

The OneWeb global satellite internet poses a threat to Russia’s national security, because it can be used for intelligence purposes, explained Vladimir Sadovnikov, a spokesperson for the Russian Security Service, to Reuters last year.

“The guarantees that the satellite communication system is not intelligence-related and cannot harm the interests of Russia’s identity and community are largely declarative in nature, and cannot be reliably verified by Russia,” he observed.