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Starlink: Who Will Benefit from SpaceX's Satellite Internet?
The providers are currently trying to set up these ground stations around the world: In western and other democratic states they are also making good progress, apart from a few exceptions. Countries with restrictive governments do not play along, however, which reduces the available data rate there. In large states such as Russia or China, this alone is unlikely to create meaningful Internet connections. Unlike OneWeb, Starlink is planning that a growing number of its satellites with lasers will also be able to exchange data quickly with one another. This reduces the number of necessary ground stations. But the question remains whether the satellites are even allowed to broadcast over such states.
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State internet censorship possible despite Starlink
Today, the Internet is no longer an equivalent global network, but differs greatly between individual countries. Some governments only block Facebook, Twitter or Wikipedia in the event of social unrest. An increasing number of countries, especially China, are relying on sophisticated censorship instruments in which even encrypted connections via VPN servers can hardly be used. Muhammed Akinyemi reports from Nigeria that the government there repeatedly completely switches off the Internet for everyone when the regime feels threatened.
Starlink hardly changes that because every satellite uses a resource when overflight that is under the territorial sovereignty of the state overflown: the frequency spectrum. The states are agreeing with each other which frequencies should be used for satellites, radios or WLAN routers. In the end, however, each government is free to grant individual companies a license to use these frequencies when overflights or the state refuses this license.
In Germany there is no danger that Starlink will be banned. However, the responsible Federal Network Agency and other European regulatory bodies have issued rules that restrict the service. For example, the satellites have to switch off their radio antennas when they fly near large radio telescopes in order not to dazzle them with their high transmission power. If Starlink satellites did not adhere to it, affected astronomers could sue SpaceX.
Many governments in Africa, Asia or Central America are unlikely to have any interest in individual US providers such as SpaceX offering their own citizens a truly free Internet. You can prohibit the use of the frequencies and even make it completely punishable under international rules. In addition, every Starlink user has to purchase an antenna in order to connect. A legislative proposal is already circulating in the Russian parliament to criminalize just having a Starlink antenna.
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Starlink helps wealthy people in remote regions
For all problems, the fast Internet from space will be of great benefit to many people in the countryside. Laying fiber optic cables in remote mountain villages in Switzerland is probably never profitable, even if the purchasing power there is very high compared to Nigeria. The western part of Germany is one of the first regions in which Starlink can be tested outside of the USA. Here the offer - at least far away from the metropolitan areas - should make a big difference.
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