How the Outernet Will Free the Internet

The invention of Internet has ushered in a revolution: a new information age that has changed the way we live our lives day-to-day.

Internet users now have access to resources and information that were out of reach before, with the ability to access almost unlimited knowledge online. Those who had no voice can now share their opinions with a global audience, and those who can’t afford higher education can now attend free courses online from schools like MIT or Harvard.

If you’re reading this now, you’re reaping the benefits of the new information age. But you’re in the minority: only about 35% of the world’s population has reliable, unrestricted Internet access.

The rest are being left behind. Access to the Internet has been deemed so important, the UN Human Rights Council has declared Internet access a basic human right. They know what a difference in quality of life it makes: households without Internet access lag behind in income, employment, and other areas.

How do we bring this basic right to the billions of people around the world who lack it?

An organization called the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) has begun to work on a solution that will freely broadcast information around the globe in a modern version of shortwave radio.

The broadcasts will be sent from space using a network of mini-satellites called Cubesats, which measure only about 10 cm (4 inches) across. The first prototype is set to launch in January 2015, and if all goes according to plan, the network could be in place as early as June 2015.

Since the information is all one-way, users in censored countries can bypass censorship while retaining their privacy. Users who are barred from the Internet due to high monthly costs or lack of infrastructure can receive the broadcasts for free on smartphones, Raspberry Pi mini-computers, Linux-compatible tuners, and other inexpensive mobile devices. In the future, the network could be used to provide complete Internet access around the globe.

With the success of the Outernet, the information age revolution will spread beyond a privileged minority to the rest of the globe. The Outernet project is one step forward in spreading basic human rights around the globe, and bringing humanity closer together than it’s ever been before.

Outernet Infographic

How the Outernet Will Free the Internet From Space

A game-changing project called the Outernet aims to bring free, unlimited and universal web access to the entire planet.

What?

Outernet will use a network of miniature satellites floating in space to broadcast data such as news, information,education and entertainment back to earth.

How?

Digital content will be transmitted from Earth into space, with tiny CubeSats satellites distributing the data in a continuous loop to mobile devices, antennas and satellite dishes.

  • CubeSat – a type of miniaturized satellite. Cubes are 10cm per side, and have a maximum mass of 1.33kg.
  • $100,000 – Estimated cost of getting one Outernet CubeSat into orbit.
  • $12 billion – Estimated cost of the whole project.
  • “BitTorrent from space” – How the Outernet team explain the project.
  • 2-way communications – The eventual aim of the project.

Where?

Most artificial satellites are found in the Low-Earth Orbits (LEO). If it is any higher, radiation begins to affect electrical components.

  • 100-1240 miles – Range of distance above the Earth’s surface the CubeSats can orbit
  • 17,026 mph – Speed at which the CubeSats will orbit the Earth in a LEO, at a rate of around once every 90 minutes.

Orbital Altitudes of Significant Satellites

  • 134 miles: Sputnik-1
  • 220 miles: International Space Station
  • 353 miles: Hubble Space Telescope
  • 111 miles – 1,243 miles: LEO (Lower-Earth orbits
  • 1,243 miles – 22,223 miles: MEO (Medium-Earth orbits)

Why?

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” – Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

60% – Estimated number of people with no, or unreliable, web access, due to lack of infrastructure, connectivity costs and censorship.

The Outernet will bridge the global information divide. The Outernet will extend coverage to everyone, free of charge, bypassing censorship, and could act as a global notification system during natural disasters.

Who?

“We exist to support the flow of independent news, information, and debate that people need to build free, thriving societies…”

Peter Whitehead, President of MDIF

  • Media Development Investment Fund – The New York-based group behind the Outernet project.
  • Networking, Telecoms and Software – Key attributes of the team working on Outernet.
  • You – Outernet invites participation and support from anyone with an interest.

When?

Phase One, the technical assessment, is already underway.

  • January 2015 – Date prototype CubeSat could be launched for testing.
  • June 2015 – Date by which full deployment of Outernet could begin.

If successful, Outernet will be a major step forward in making us a truly joined-up global society. Imagine: total connectivity, anywhere in the world, free of censorship and free of charge. The potential benefits to mankind and our planet are enormous.

Sources

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