So it looks like Iran is building its own private, nationwide internet. Which might not sound like such a big deal — it’s not like it’s building a nuclear bomb or anything — except that analysts fear that Iranian government might be aiming to cut its citizenry off from the big, freer internet.
In which case, authorities could feasibly clamp down on the flow of information into the state, halt social networking between would-be protest organizers, and tightly regulate what Iranians see and do online.
MIT’s Technology Review explains how they’re doing it:
One of the lesser known features of the internet is the ability to create private networks using IP addresses reserved for exactly this purpose. These addresses come under the IP block 10.0.0.0/8 and allow a total of almost 17 millon different hosts [sic]. Anybody can use them to set up a private network for their office, home or, in this case, nation.
Collin Anderson, a researcher with UPenn, has been looking into Iran’s altra-net effort, and he now believes he’s got enough evidence to prove that Iran is indeed creating a vast, nation-specific network that’s open to users inside the country. Oh yeah, and it’s pretty much invisible to outsiders.
“Iran has broken from commonplace Internet addressing standards to create a private network that is only accessible within the country,” he told MIT.
Internet use is already heavily censored in Iran, but hackers and the tech-savvy find workarounds. This “hidden internet” will make those efforts even more difficult. An anti-establishment fervor is still percolating there, and the regime is still certainly paranoid about the prospect of an Arab Spring-style uprising spilling into its borders. And its leaders might have read all those articles about how Facebook and social media and other super-awesome American-made freedom technology was behind it all — potentially helping to fast-track its anti-net.
So Iran’s secretive, oppressive regime is building a secret, oppressive internet. Fortunately, it’s still entirely possible, despite what TED talkers may have you believe, to stage a revolution without Twitter.