National Intranet: The Inclusion Model

There have been several reports noting that Iran is seeking to implement a National Intranet. Known as Shaare’2 (or Shaareh II) the national Intranet will locally provide various services (web hosting & chat) in order to reduce international bandwidth costs. National Instranets can also be used to cache or mirror external content. Myanmar has had a national Intranet since 2001 tha provides access to sites and publications. When used in conjunction with or as a national Internet filtering strategy this approach can have a serious impact on free access to information.

National Intranets allow countries to conserve expensive international bandwidth by providing services (such as web hosting) and external content (caching or mirroring external content) to domestic users without having to route the users’ requests through to external foreign servers. In conjunction with Internet Exchange Points, negotiated inter-connectivity between domestic ISP’s in a region or country, domestic traffic is routed locally instead of through multiple international connections. The addition of the National intranet ensures that users have access to a variety of Internet services as well as selected external content. This reduces costs and improves performance. But when used in conjunction with or as a national Internet filtering strategy this approach can have a serious impact on free access to information.

There are different ways in which Internet filtering can take place: exclusion filtering, specific listed websites are blocked, inclusion filtering, specific listed sites are accessible, all others are blocked, and content analysis, the content of webpage is dynamically blocked by analyzing the content for specific keywords. The national Intranet model relies on inclusion filtering, or the “whitelist” approach to content restriction. Only selected content is mirrored or cached on the internal Intranet.

Myanmar has had a National Intranet in operation since 2001. There are four types of access available in Myanmar:

Membership A � has access to use FTP services, Intranet services, and dial-up web access (web browsing). The user can request sites that he or she wants to see, and can access this service from home or office.
Membership B � The services provided are the same as for Membership A, although FTP services are not provided unless the user accesses such services at the main office of Bagan Cybertech.
Membership C � provides FTP services only.
Membership E � provides Intranet services only.

In the case of Iran, the development of a national Intranet does not neccessarily mean that Internet access will not be available. Rather, it provides the Iranian government with more control. Any content hosted on the Intranet can be more easily subject to Iranian law and can more easily be removed (rather than filtered).

Cheap access to Intranet resources and restricted direct access to the Internet comprises an inclusion filtering approach that is rather successful in restricting access to information and reducing the effectiveness of censorship circumvention methods.