Elon Musk, co-founder of companies such as Paypal and current CEO of SpaceX, has asked the United States Federal Communication Commission for permission to begin testing a project that would deliver internet from space via satellite. The plan would entail sending 4,000 satellites, which the Washington post described as ‘small and cheap’ into space. These satellites would in turn beam internet back to Earth, and Musk is quoted as saying that this “would be like rebuilding the Internet in space.” Testing for this project should begin next year, with ambitions that the project should be operational within five years.
If successful, this project would have a worldwide impact. Not only would it bring the internet to those few remaining unconnected remote places around the world, but it could also offer Space X as an alternative ISP in those countries where there a few monopolistic companies control all internet access. No one as of yet has answered the question of how countries that want their citizens to have limited access to information will react to this plan.
Though seemingly novel, plans similar to Musk’s have actually existed in many incarnations over many years. Richard Branson of Virgin supposedly has a similar project currently in the works. Bill Gates is said to have toyed with a similar idea in the 1990’s. Another firm, LightSquared, abandoned this project a mere three years ago. More recently, Facebook has given up on a similar plan that differed from Musk’s by involving the construction of a single $500 million satellite. This project proved to be more ambitious than the company could handle, and Facebook killed the project off before they ever even announced it. Time will tell whether Musk’s plan to build a multitude of satellites will prove more effective (although it certainly seems more logical).
Will this project succeed, or is this just more bravado from Elon Musk?