Why Russia Lags Behind On Internet?

Why Russia Lags Behind On Internet

Russia is the 9th most populous country in the world, with a population of approximately 146 million people. Among that, 88.21% of people use the internet on a daily basis. Being one of the most powerful countries, you’d think Russia has all the modern world facilities and top-notch internet service, as the whole world is going through the digital revolution. But it’s nothing like that, rather the Russian government is trying to create a digital Firewall that’ll impose more and more censorship on how its citizen can use the web. 

So, why Russia Lags behind on the internet, and what implications does the strict censorship in Russia have for the country’s future?


Russia is not unique in its approach to regulating the internet, and many other countries, including the US, have also implemented measures to control online content in the name of national security or public order. Granted, it’s up to each individual to assess the risks and benefits of using the internet in Russia or any other country and to take appropriate measures to protect their online privacy and security. But the way the Russian government is intervening in public internet usage raises valid concerns among the citizens, as well as global market players. Russia accuses Western countries to spread misinformation and continues surveilling illegally on its soil. On the other hand, other countries hold Russia accountable for spying and unnecessary power show-offs, both online and offline. According to data from the Speedtest Global Index, Russia ranks 55th in the world for fixed broadband speeds, with an average download speed of 78.03 Mbps.

Why Russia Lags Behind On Internet?

Why Russia Lags Behind On Internet?

Let’s take a look at why Russia is so far behind on the internet, compared to other countries.

Strict Regulations

The Russian government has imposed several laws and regulations that give it broad control over the Internet. For example, a law passed in 2016 requires internet service providers to store user data for up to six months and to provide the government with access to that data upon request. It also allows the government to block websites that it deems to be a threat to national security. Another law passed in 2019- “Sovereign Internet Law” which requires all smartphones and computers sold in Russia to come pre-installed with certain government-approved software. These laws have raised concerns about online privacy and censorship in Russia.

State Control of Telecommunications

The Russian government has significant control over the telecommunications industry in Russia, which includes the Internet. The state-owned company Rostelecom is the dominant player in the market, controlling over 35% of the market. This has led to a lack of competition and innovation in the sector, which has contributed to slower internet speeds and weaker internet infrastructure. Russia’s internet speeds are generally slower than in other developed countries.

Why Russia Lags Behind On Internet?

Freedom Of Speech

Unlike the US government, the Russian govt. has almost full authority over the internet. This includes websites that promote political dissent, LGBTQ+ rights, and other sensitive topics. The government has also blocked popular messaging apps like Telegram, which has led to criticism from human rights groups and free speech advocates. Although the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, the government has broad powers to clamp down on any speech, groups, or actions that are not endorsed by official channels, due to vague laws regarding extremism, and this applies to the Internet as well. Since the war, the Russian government has blocked more than 138,000 websites, in the name of national security, which includes sites of many social activists, opposition parties, and various social media platforms.

Building Great Firewall

From the day Russia waged a war against Ukraine, Russian people have seen rapid censorship on the web. Twitter was literally shut down for weeks and other social media platforms were slowed down too. Meta’s Instagram and Facebook got banned within days. In reality, Putin’s government is trying to build a firewall to control everything on the internet. China has set a high standard for digital Firewalls by successfully isolating itself from the rest of the digital world, though it comes with a heavy cost of $20 billion every year, to maintain all the censorious telecom equipment. Even though the media in Russia is often controlled by the state or pro-Kremlin sources, citizens can still use global services as a way to access information from other sources. These services act as gateways to alternative information. So, it’ll be tough for Russia to copy China’s Great Firewall.

Poor Internet Infrastructure

Russia’s internet infrastructure is also considered to be relatively weak, especially in rural areas. According to a recent report, internet penetration in rural areas is 78%, compared to 86% in urban areas. The report also notes that many rural areas lack the necessary infrastructure to support high-speed internet. As the state-owned company Rostelecom is the dominant provider, there’s less opportunity for other players in the market. And, World Bank survey shows that 88% of the total population in Russia is using the Internet. It’s obvious that the speed and service quality would drop to provide everyone’s needs with this limited infrastructure.

Why Russia Lags Behind On Internet?

Final Thoughts

It’s worth noting that strict control of the internet can limit freedom of expression and access to information, which can have both positive and negative consequences for a country’s development and progress. Whatever our opinion is, ultimately depends on the Russian government to strike a balance between ensuring security and stability while also respecting individual rights and freedoms. Again, the conflict with Ukraine has brought American tech companies into focus as Putin seeks to tighten his grip on information. While the Russian government has taken steps to improve internet infrastructure and speeds in recent years, there is still much work to be done before Russia can catch up with other countries in terms of internet development.

Nurul Hasan

Nurul Hasan Pulak

Nurul Hasan Pulak is a highly skilled tech author with a background in Computer Science and Engineering. Graduating in this field has equipped him with a strong analytical mindset and the ability to think critically. With a keen interest in research and creative writing, he enjoys exploring and presenting intriguing topics to his readers. Having worked in the media industry for several years, Pulak has gained valuable experience in understanding the pulse of the audience and crafting engaging content.