Outernet wants to use tiny satellites to take the whole world online, even in countries where dictators wish they wouldn’t.
Welcome the Outernet. The implications of free Internet for the entire planet are vast. Cheaper access from Internet providers is probably more of an immediate impact than change in North Korea, where free is no good because they aren’t all exactly walking around with Galaxy tablets.
Nevertheless, this is the type of thing that could have a dramatic impact on situations like the ones in Syria, Egypt and the Ukraine.
If all goes according to plan, North Koreans will soon have free, uncensored Internet provided by satellites the size of toaster ovens.
That’s part of a project called Outernet, which hopes to launch hundreds of tiny satellites—known as CubeSats—to provide Internet to every person on Earth. Forty percent of the world’s people currently don’t have access to the Web. In a little more than a year, Outernet plans to have a fleet of 24 satellites operational and testing to pave the way for a globe-spanning network.
The satellites won’t be providing conventional Internet right away. They’ll initially be used for one-way communication to provide services like emergency updates, news, crop prices, and educational programs. Users will help determine what content is offered.
The project’s backers say knowledge is a human right—one they intend to provide even in countries where dictators have thus far limited access. “We exist to support the flow of independent news, information, and debate that people need to build free, thriving societies,” said Peter Whitehead, president of the Media Development Investment Fund, Outernet’s backer. “It enables fuller participation in public life, holds the powerful to account and protects the rights of the individual.”
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