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ahumanright.org plans to buy satellite and provide free Internet access for entire world

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February 8, 2011

ahumanright.org is a charity group that plans to buy a used satellite, and use it as the f...

ahumanright.org is a charity group that plans to buy a used satellite, and use it as the first step in a network that would provide free Internet access to everyone in the world

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For those of us who live in the developed world, internet access has become pretty much a given. It’s become so ubiquitous that we almost expect to have it at all times and in all places, but even in this “Information Age,” the majority of the world’s population lacks access to the internet – either because service isn’t available where they are, or they can’t afford it. Kosta Grammatis has a plan, however. Through his charity group ahumanright.org, Grammatis aims to set up a network of satellites that will provide free internet access to everyone in the world. He’s starting by attempting to buy a single used satellite that’s already in orbit and moving it to a location above a developing country.

The spacecraft in question is the Terrestar-1 communications satellite. Given that the company that owns it, Terrestar, has recently filed for bankruptcy, it may soon be up for sale. Grammatis’s plan is to raise US$150,000, so that his group can put together a business plan for funders, process the legal and business aspects of submitting a bid, and hire engineers to figure out how to move and repurpose the satellite. At the time of this publishing, he has raised a total of $37,687.

Once it has the money, ahumanright.org will make a bid on Terrestar-1, begin developing a low-cost modem, acquire an orbital parking spot and radio wave spectrum, and draw up plans with partner governments. The final phase of the project would involve actually moving the satellite into position over a partner country or countries, distributing the modems, and beginning service.

Grammatis told Gizmag that the idea first came to him at Palomar 5, a think tank for 30 people under the age of 30 that took place in Berlin. There, he heard the story of Malawi’s William Kamkwamba.

“Re-inventing the wheel isn't something we would wish upon anyone, but William Kamkwamba's story provides an example of the information disparity slowing down progress for the brightest minds,” said Grammatis. “William couldn't afford the US$80 per year it cost to attend school so he spent his time at the library instead ... over the span of four years he re-invented the windmill to provide himself with electricity. He shared his first Google experience with journalists: ‘He said, Do you know Google? and I said, What animal is a Google? And when I Googled windmill I found there was millions of applications! I said, Where was this Google all this time?!’”

ahumanright.org is a charity group that plans to buy a used satellite, and use it as the f...

While some people might worry that free web access for all would put internet providers out of business, Grammatis doesn’t think it would be a problem. “All over the world free television and radio is beamed to millions of people,” he said. “It's free, and that service has never threatened cable or satellite TV, in fact, people are happy to pay a premium for a premium service. We have the same vision – basic internet access would be free. It wouldn't be great, but it would do the job.”

While there is currently no price tag attached to Terrestar-1, ahumanright’s Buy This Satellite fundraising website points out that a used Iridium communications satellite was sold in 2000 for $23 million – a steal, considering it reportedly cost $5 billion to build new. Still, the whole venture sounds quite daunting, and it likely wouldn’t be possible without the help of highly-motivated volunteer “ambassadors” who are promoting the charity around the world.

“We're not going to do this alone, and the response has been outstanding,” said Grammatis. “If we all sat around and waited for someone to solve our problems, we'd be waiting a long time.”

What a fantastic idea! Good luck.

Via New Scientist

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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20 Comments

Developing countries Internet Users very much welcome it.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Anumakonda Jagadeesh
9th February, 2011 @ 12:37 am PST

Reposting widely. Here's hoping he succeeds. This would really change the world.

Ethan Kincaid
9th February, 2011 @ 04:56 am PST

A GREAT idea! :D

Edgar Castelo
9th February, 2011 @ 05:09 am PST

Publicity such as this from Gizmag should cause Donations to begin! MORE publicity will cause even more donations; so Keep the publicity rolling!...Wheredo I send my money?

[Just click on the linked Buy This Satellite text in the article - Ed.]

WDR031927
9th February, 2011 @ 05:52 am PST

Now, this is called development!

Great Idea.

Atul Anand
9th February, 2011 @ 06:38 am PST

I'm not a scientist but I don't think this is a simple as it sounds. For a satellite to be geosynchronous it has to be so high that signals can only be received by very large commercial type receiver dishes.

To receive a signal directly to a personal device, the satellite would need to be a powerful low orbit satellite. It would take large number of low orbit satellites to blanket the world.

f

IggyDalrymple
9th February, 2011 @ 08:12 am PST

The owner of the satellite should donate it. They could declare the value high enough that the tax write-off would probably be greater than what they could get for it on the open market, at least if they're a U.S. company.

J.D. Ray
9th February, 2011 @ 09:08 am PST

Dear Iggy

i totally get u..but the way a geosync satt works is a bit diff

the satt itself has a largish base receiver station facility..and that facility further employs short range terrestrial wireless links outside the satt communication bands to reach end user who have tiny receiver dishes and modems attached to their PCs.

Atul Malhotra
9th February, 2011 @ 10:19 am PST

Great Idea !!!!!! We would like to come on board and work with you.....

Richie Suraci
9th February, 2011 @ 12:02 pm PST

while the idea is great and the goal noble, make sure to install a SCAM filter.. more internet access in developing countries = more scam opportunities :(

foo
9th February, 2011 @ 03:08 pm PST

I really hope this works!

Facebook User
9th February, 2011 @ 03:26 pm PST

I'm not sure this really has a chance. Bill Gates, Craig McCaw, Paul Allen were going to do a similar system, started a company called Teledesic, even put a satellite in orbit. They decided they couldn't make money at it. So if some of the world's richest men decide they can't make money off it, what are the chances of developing a system for free?

Eletruk
9th February, 2011 @ 05:15 pm PST

Now, here´s a gigantonormous (as in BIG) chance for the likes of Bill Gates to give something back to who really would be helped by free internet. Just imagine, a satellite for just a hundred and fifty thousand bucks.. peanuts for you megamultimillionaires out there!!!

Just two or three of you guys who´ll put, say 5 million each to get this thing off the ground in a proper way. And don´t just think gaming in a igloo or an rondavel.. think education.

How about it guys? Just a few millions to give internet to the world in a big way.

bas
9th February, 2011 @ 06:13 pm PST

Australias Government can adopt and contribute to this concept.

Specific capacity and designed satellites on a mass production and launch basis could cost recover by onselling to other countries NBN.

Specific line of site and frequency bandwidth as well as mobile ground nodes/control centers will make it a secure and redundant capable network.

George McGregor Wilson
9th February, 2011 @ 06:31 pm PST

I think these guys' hearts are in the right place. Unfortunately, with the largeish sums of money involved, I can't see this making it through to the endpoint in a pure, uncorrupted form.

Which is a pity, because denial of internet service is a powerful tool for oppressive governments and those that wish to constrain information and limit freedom of speech. An internet service that doesn't have to listen to any government's demands would be a true step forward for human rights. And an instant target for tyrants worldwide.

Loz
9th February, 2011 @ 07:13 pm PST

As mentioned earlier, geo-synchronous satellites are too far away (at least for the transmitter). A large antenna and expensive equipment would be needed.

What they need is a network of around 50 low earth orbit satellites. The most expensive part of that is the launch system. Perhaps the X-prize could launch a competition to create a cheap launch system? You could even create work in developing countries to manufacture and launch the satellites themselves...

Edgar Walkowsky
9th February, 2011 @ 07:29 pm PST

For the people who don't have a clue about satellites and how they work... The satellites for satellite TV, SKY, Dish, DirecTV etc. are in geosynchronous orbit yet the dishes can be as small as 18" diameter. The dishes for two-way satellite internet are only about 19x22". They have to be precisely aimed because just a fraction of a degree off and the signal from the dish will miss the satellite 22,236 miles (35,786 km) away.

Those huge 8 foot and larger dishes were required just to receive the old low power analog C and Ku band TV signals. That technology is still used because many of the old satellites are still up there and working. Google for 4DTV

Facebook User
10th February, 2011 @ 01:12 am PST

Receiving from a geo-stationary satellite is not a problem millions of people have satellite television reception - and have done for years. The equipment is not expensive - less than $100. Receiving internet data has also been around for years, but often the up-link transmission path has been by telephone line. To have a small ground-station is certainly

possible as well and millions of these are indeed used, but the cost would be beyond the reach of someone in a third-world country. Possibly local communities could support this though in co-operation with schools and hospitals.

This is an excellent idea altogether - and possibly there is a way this could be partnered with the cheap pc's for schools projects.

professore
10th February, 2011 @ 01:26 am PST

This guy is a freaking genius, that's all that can really be said. Could you imagine the news and amounts of truth(s) that would be available if this comes to fruition? OMG, kids!!!! This guy would be thee man.

Facebook User
10th February, 2011 @ 08:45 am PST

Never for free. How can I purchase some stock and thus pay for the satellite?

jeffb5
19th February, 2011 @ 05:10 am PST
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