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article imageChina to ban consumer VPNs, force businesses to sign a register

By James Walker     Jul 11, 2017 in Technology
China has announced it is banning all consumer VPNs and has told state-owned telecoms operators to prevent their customers from accessing them. Enterprises that are reliant on the use of VPNs will be required to formally register with the government.
The move is expected to impact millions of Chinese Internet consumers. VPNs are routinely used in the country as a way of escaping the "Great Firewall" and connecting to Western Internet services. China's now removing the only readily accessible way of circumventing the censorship system, isolating its citizens from the wider Internet.
The decision, first reported by Bloomberg, is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's aim to ensure "cyber sovereignty." Jinping wants to regain control of China's Internet and remove foreign influences. Previously, VPNs offered consumers a way of accessing Western websites, apps and entertainment providers and enabled cross-border data flows. These will now be off limits, giving China's government control over everything that happens online.
China has contacted all of its state-owned telecoms operators to inform them of the new rules. The three largest firms, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, have a combined subscriber base of over 1.3 billion customers. They must block access to VPN providers, whether they're based locally or overseas, by February 2018.
Companies with facilities in China that require access to the global Internet will be able to lease connections from the government. They'll be obligated to officially register their usage of the services. It's not yet known how this will be enforced or whether international VPN services will be available. Firms may be forced into using lines provided by the Chinese government.
Despite the changes around business use, the new rules appear to primarily target consumers. China's aware that blocking access to the wider web entirely would force multinationals operating within its borders to look elsewhere.
The country has apparently lost patience with members of its population using VPNs to consume foreign services. If the new regulations are vigilantly enforced, platforms like Facebook and Twitter may be entirely inaccessible to Chinese computer users. The Chinese government is sending a clear message that VPNs will no longer be tolerated.
The announcement follows China's targeting of local VPN providers earlier this year. Since January, VPN services have been required to obtain official government approval before starting their app. As a consequence of the rules, two established Chinese overseas providers were forced offline, leaving their users looking elsewhere. China has been unable to block international apps so easily though, a frustration that the new ban will remove entirely.
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