Given Pandemic, Russians Increasingly Turning to Internet for News But Slow Speeds Keep Many from Using It Widely

File Image of Laptop Computer, Tables and Mobile Device, adapted from image at energy.gov

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, April 7, 2020)

As Russians are told to stay at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, ever more of the 82 percent who are connected to the Internet are turning to that channel for news, with the share doing so rising from 83 percent to 89 percent over the last month alone, VTsIOM reports.

They have also increased their use of the Internet for bank transfers (up from 72 to 78 percent over the same period), education and instruction (from 63 percent to 69 percent), maintaining ties with relatives (from 79 to 89 percent), and for entertainment (now, 77 percent, up six percent from two years ago) (wciom.ru/index.php?id=236&uid=10221).

In short, for Russians as for many others who are now staying at home because of the pandemic, the Internet has become a lifesaver. But in Russia, this may be even more important because of the very different and more independent messages the Internet conveys than do state-controlled television.

But this expanded use of the Internet by most Russians also calls attention to the fifth of the Russian population which even now lacks access or the larger number which lacks high speed connections (profile.ru/scitech/kakaya-chast-rossiyan-v-period-karantina-ostalas-bez-podklyucheniya-k-internetu-275314/).

The figure of 80 percent of Russians going online is deceptive because except in the largest cities, speeds available to Russian Internet users are so slow that people cannot use them for many purposes and don’t. In Moscow, things may be fine, but even in mid-sized cities, where the Internet is widespread, the speeds are much, much slower.

This puts much of Russia under “a double quarantine,” the Profile survey says. They not only must stay home, but they can’t use the Internet for all the wonderful things that it can offer in the way of news, entertainment and even commercial activity. Indeed, slow speeds may be more of a constraint in Russia now than total access rates.

[article also appeared at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/04/given-pandemic-russians-increasingly.html]