The Outernet Project Plans for Free Internet Access for Everyone

This is a topic I think that could affect everyone so I thought I’d bring it up here. A New York-based company called Outernet is working to build a satellite-based broadcasting system that will provide access to information via the Internet to everyone on the globe. Outernet has received funding from Digital News Ventures, which is a branch of the nonprofit Media Development Investment Fund which funds news and information services in poorly served parts of the world.

Outernet plans to reach every person in the world, and bypass censorship and internet-blocking policies in place in countries like North Korea and China, reaching the 40 per cent of the world’s population that has no access to the Internet.

The initial plan of Outernet is to deploy a network of low-orbit satellites called ‘Cube Sats’ which will start to broadcast selected internet information services such as news, emergency information, educational materials (like Kahn Academy), and Wikipedia. The long-term goal “includes the addition of two-way Internet access for everyone. For free.”

This is of course a very ambitious project but the company is moving ahead with the plan, and believes it will be able to meet its goal, and plans to rely on donations from the public to finance its operations which will not come cheap. People are already able to make donations via the Outernet web site (tax-deductible in the US)

Even if this project is technically feasible there are certainly many challenges to meet for it to be successful. Some of the obvious issues that come to mind deal with security. Certainly there will be governments that will not like the fact that they will not be able to control the flow of information to its citizens and will certainly try to interfere with the Outernet. Also, if the initial plans are to broadcast only selected information streams, what kinds of programming will be chosen? Users can make recommendations on the Outernet discussion forums — maybe E-Cat World will get on the list 🙂

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