Do you want to capture free Wi-fi connection in the middle of Siberia or in any free internet access area? This could become a reality in 2015 thanks to the “Outernet” launched by an association of New York Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF).
This type of project is a huge issue in terms of free access to information for 60% of the world population, which has no access to the internet now. To overcome this problem, the idea is to disseminate data from space via a constellation of satellites capable of sending loop digital content anywhere on the planet. The satellites in question are Cubesat, small cubes of 1 kg to 10 cm square originally developed by the University of California and Stanford in the United States.
Many universities and NASA to conduct measurements and experiments in Earth orbit currently operate these low-cost satellites. Outernet plans to deploy hundreds of these micro satellites at an altitude of 500 km to cover the entire globe. Once in orbit, ground relay stations send information from the web to the satellite, which then broadcast the loop to Earth. The wi-fi signal should be consistent with current standards and be compatible with existing receivers. So, a standard tablet or smartphone could connect without any problem on those information flows.
But “Outernet” will actually have little to do with the internet we use daily. It does not offer full access to the web, but only limited and selected content (local and international news, wikipedia, openstreetmap and Ubuntu distribution, educational sites like Coursera or Khan University).
By cons, it will be impossible to surf or perform tasks that require sending data. We are therefore dealing more with a kind of modern radio. The goal is not to compete with the major Internet service providers in major cities but to provide basic internet to unconnected or censored people. This raises a number of questions:
- What advantages over competing project “google loon” based on stratospheric balloons that will allow, if the deployment comes to an end, a 3G connection at low prices in the most isolated places in the world. Another project of satellite constellation, the project “03B” is well advanced. Four 500 kg satellites are already deployed more than 8,000 km above our heads. Ultimately, this project will provide a low-cost offer satellite internet.
- Disseminate handpicked content is a laudable initiative, but will the “neutrality” of this information be ensured, since it is the users involved in the project who will decide collectively (following what qualification and arbitration process?) of the nature of broadcast content. That which strongly resembles the death of the Net neutrality and equal access for all to all kinds of information!
Please Mr. Kennedy, Help us to safeguard a full Internet access for everybody.