Iran Goes Off the Grid

New internal network creates the ultimate iron firewall

Iran is looking to take censorship to a whole new level, according to the Wall Street Journal. An initiative launched by the country’s communication ministry would create an entirely disconnected internet space for Iranian users, augmenting current efforts to close off its cyberspace from western ideology.

The news of such a project would be enough for the leaders of the country’s Green Movement to take to the streets, however official leadership is branding the project to the masses as a cost-saving measure. Also appealing to the country’s devout, one Iranian official said the national internet will be "genuinely halal." The director of the telecommunications ministry’s research institute boasted in February that in two years, all homes and businesses in the country would be connected to the internal network.

The ambitious internet plan is not without its difficulties. Such a closed off system could stunt investment opportunities with other censor-minded nations such as Russia and China. It will also immediately create a technology information dearth, boosting a need to reinvent the wheel for now seemingly mundane activities, such as pulling up Google to perform a search.

Estimates place around 11 of every 100 Iranians as internet users, making their famously interactive blogging culture one of the most vibrant in the Middle East. In the early days of Iranian internet use in the 1990s, leaders encouraged citizens to log on and spread their own brand of Islamic ideology. Recent counter movements in the country, stoked by Twitter, have the country’s social engineers now on the defensive.