December 9, 2019
President Hassan Rouhani has said the National Information Network (NIN) or Iran’s intranet will be bolstered as ordered by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei so that “people will not need foreign [networks] to meet their needs.”
Rouhani who was addressing parliament pointed out that one of the policies of his administration was strengthening infrastructures including the Internet bandwidth. “It has grown 20 times since the beginning of the 11th administration,” he said.
The Internet blackout during the November protests hit many sectors of the Iranian economy hard. Although the Internet connection was gradually restored, in various parts of the country, mobile Internet is still not functioning in some areas such as Sistan and Baluchestan Province in the southeast. The blackout is now referred to as “The Internet Coup” by some experts.
Iran is already blocking tens of thousands of websites and Rouhani’s remark about not needing foreign networks simply means a stronger censorship.
NIN is an intranet and relies on the Internet to function. However, a domestic intranet based on the Internet Protocol will prevent data requests from being routed outside the country. NIN will allow censorship of the net and only provide access to selected content. VPNs which many Iranians use to access blocked websites cannot function in the NIN.
The Internet could not be completely shut down even during protests in November when it was cut off to prevent protesters from sending information and footage of the security forces’ attacks on the protesters to the media abroad. The access level, however, had dropped to five to eight percent and only the NIN was used to meet the needs of some businesses such as online cab services.
Beside censorship an intranet such as the NIN can make domestic centers and facilities immune to cyber-attacks from abroad.
Rouhani’s remarks today drew reactions even from the members of his own administration. “Speaking about the expansion of the National Information Network and independence in cyberspace does not mean shutting down the Internet and living in the Stone Age. The two (NIN and Internet) are complementary,” Alireza Moezzi, the communications deputy of the Presidential Office tweeted.
“Saying we must cut connections with the [outside] world is a sign of inability to understand life in a world of networks,” Moezzi said in his tweet.