Patricia A. Vargas-Leon is a fellow in the Information Society Project at Yale Law School and a former Post-Doc in the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Patricia conducts research from a triple perspective: law, policy, and technology, and uses diverse methodologies within the fields of Internet governance, cybersecurity, and the law of the sea. Her research focuses on forms of government control over the Internet infrastructure and Internet protocol, network neutrality, the DNS, IXPs, international law, and the study of parallel policies between the law of the sea, the Internet, and cyberspace. Her doctoral dissertation explores governments' attempts to "shut down" the entire Internet in democratic and non-democratic regimes. Patricia is a former consultant within the United Nations' Division of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea. She holds a Ph.D. in Information Sciences and Technology from Syracuse University and a law degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Perú.
Different perceptions over IXPs in isolating and controlling the Internet traffic
Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) are vital pieces that support the functioning of the Internet protocol. They are neutral facilities where networks meet to exchange Internet traffic; because of their crucial role in facilitating connectivity, they are a constant target of government control. In May 2019, the Russian government enacted the so-called Russian sovereignty law over the Internet (Stadnik, 2019, 2021; Strizh, 2019). This federal law allows the government to declare a national security situation, shut down portions of the Internet infrastructure located in Russia, and redirect all domestic Internet traffic to servers within Russian territory (Jee, 2019).
According to this new law, the Internet traffic within Russian territory must be routed only through the IXPs included in a register created by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) (Stadnik, 2019, 2021; Strizh, 2019). In February 2022, after Russia concentrated troops to attack Ukraine, world leaders imposed strict sanctions on Russia (Brown, 2022). Consequently, companies that operate IXPs worldwide decided to stop or suspend services that facilitate traffic within Russian territory. Therefore, the vital function of the Internet of interconnecting autonomous systems (AS) within Russia was greatly affected (Goodin, 2022).
This paper aims to analyze and compare both policy perspectives over IXPs: (1) as a tool of government control through the amendments to the Russian Law, and (2) as one of the channelers of international sanctions. Although both policies were created with different geopolitical motivations at different moments, it is critical to establish whether they may align with the Russian government's agenda for RuNet. Furthermore, although there is no international legislation related to IXPs (like it occurs with submarine cables and the DNS), this paper expects to provide a general overview of some international provisions that could protect the critical functions of the IXPs.