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Charity Raising Money To Buy Used Satellite 175

Posted by samzenpus
from the asynchronous-bargain dept.
Zothecula writes "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."
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Charity Raising Money To Buy Used Satellite

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  • by Llamahand (1275482) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @05:03PM (#35154608)
    ...with a satellite receiver and a computer. Oh, and electricity. And probably enough food and water not to die before they get online.
    • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @05:10PM (#35154702)
      I've heard that logic before somewhere [penny-arcade.com]...

      Solving one deficiency can occur in a separate channel and in a separate timeframe than other deficiencies and still be valuable in any sphere where development is not wholly homogeneous. Or, put more simply, where there are some people in the developing world that have all the prerequisites and still no internet, this potentially helps them (though I'm not sure how they're even expected to receive the signals).
      • by grcumb (781340)

        Solving one deficiency can occur in a separate channel and in a separate timeframe than other deficiencies and still be valuable in any sphere where development is not wholly homogeneous. Or, put more simply, where there are some people in the developing world that have all the prerequisites and still no internet, this potentially helps them (though I'm not sure how they're even expected to receive the signals).

        That's true enough. But there are a couple of constants in that equation that bear remembering....

        I live and work in a Least Developed Country, and in fact I'll be attending an Internet Governance meeting as soon as I finish this note. I've seen a lot of inspired (but not very realistic) ideas aiming to provide Internet for all. But the plain fact is that it's really costly. Especially in countries like mine where satellite is the only option. (USD 4000 per Mb per month is the retail rate for uncontended ba

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @05:22PM (#35154808)
      "Developing nation" does not necessarily mean "nation filled with people who are starving and lack clothes." Additionally, it is not necessarily the case that the people targeted by this program would want Internet access in their homes; I have heard that in some very rural areas in developing nations, it is common for a village to possess a few communally owned cell phones (apparently they can get reception) which they use for long distance communications. I think it is likely that in such places, a single communal computer with an Internet connection would be greatly appreciated.
      • by icebike (68054)

        Additionally, it is not necessarily the case that the people targeted by this program would want Internet access in their homes; I have heard that in some very rural areas in developing nations, it is common for a village to possess a few communally owned cell phones .

        You are describing a system of communal ownership forced on them by their costs and their income level.
        Its unlikely that would persist if they could obtain free internet service.

        Granted there may be some religious / cultural prohibitions against computers or cell phones, (especially for women in some rather oppressive cultures), but that is not common.

        • I don't see this as being free at all, since you're talking a geosync satellite you're going to need a fair amount of equipment to have access to it. Even beyond the basic requirements of a computer and a satellite linkup, you are still talking about consistent electricity, maintenance, and repair. None of that is free, especially if you're working 16 hours a day just to feed your family.

          • by icebike (68054)

            I don't see this as being free at all,

            Quoting the story:

            Grammatis aims to set up a network of satellites that will provide free internet access to everyone in the world.

            Free in this case means you won't have to pay Grammatis for the bandwidth.

            Its understood that someone offering you free beer does not intend to transport you to the beer station and back, or provide you with a car to transport yourself, or that your Free Gmail account comes with a FREE computer as well as Free electricity and a free house to keep it in.

            There is very little of the world that has absolutely no electrical power. It doesn't have to be consistent. There are plenty of I

            • There is very little of the world that has absolutely no electrical power

              Wow. You really need to get out more.

            • by Brianwa (692565)
              Yeah, when I was visiting Laos I was startled to come across a village with a big FTA satellite dish mounted to one of the huts. Apparently it's not that unusual for everyone to chip in for some gasoline to run a generator for long enough to watch a TV show or two. With a free internet connection, it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine them getting a communal computer as well -- which could be great for them as there is almost no educational material even available in their language, and it would be easy to
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hooya (518216)

      Yeah, about that "Food and Water":

      It seems, we haven't solved that one yet in the "Richest" nation. [feedingamerica.org] What say you, we drop this internet crap and focus first on that basic human need right here in America?

      Or do you have something against people like William Kamkwamba [wikipedia.org] who might find the internet a halfway decent resource to better their situation?

      • by NFN_NLN (633283)

        Yeah, about that "Food and Water":

        It seems, we haven't solved that one yet in the "Richest" nation. [feedingamerica.org] What say you, we drop this internet crap and focus first on that basic human need right here in America?

        The hunger issue has been solved at least 4 times throughout history. In all cases as soon as hunger was no longer a limiting factor the population grew until it was again.

        1) There were enough resources in North America to feed all of Europe, until North Americans started populating
        2) Agricultural revolution brought about by "chemically synthesized inorganic fertilizers"
        3) The ability to increase farming due to "cheap oil", corn is often referred to as edible oil
        4) Norman Borlaug pioneered genetically modi

    • Sure, free access for all, .... someday, ..... which will never really happen. But the first step is to make sure that Mrs. Awagawabutuwa, the widow of the late banker Mr. Awagawabutuwa, in Nigeria has free Internet access, so that she can help get the money in her late husband's bank to the right people before the corrupt government gets it. What could possibly go wrong?
    • Pardon my French, but I think a few expletives are justified here:

      ...with a satellite receiver and a computer. Oh, and electricity. And probably enough food and water not to die before they get online.

      Oh For Fuck's SAKE! How many more times does this clueless crap have to be debunked on /.? How do you think India and China have lifted all those millions of people out of poverty in the last 15 years? Fixing the plumbing in villages? Do you really think that the only way to generate wealth is through social programs? How come that idea gets pissed on when we're talking about the USA but advocated as regular as clockwork when we're talking

  • Buying used satellites is just buying someone else's problems. Unless it is a cool classic satellite with tail fins.

    • by trb (8509)
      The Plymouth Satellite [allpar.com] came a bit after tail fins. It is still cool classic.
    • by jandrese (485)
      That was my original thought as well. "They're going to buy something using old technology at the end of its life, and it's going to last a few years and die on them." But I went and looked up the satellite they mentioned in the article and it was launched in 2009(!!). This is a modern bird, and the only reason it's up for sale is because the original owners went bankrupt. If they pull this off, it could be a coup for third world internet access.
  • Right... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @05:03PM (#35154620)
    Buying a used satellite is like buying a used bus... the only reason someone would sell it is because it has become cheaper to buy a new one than to maintain the old one!
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not quite - TFA says "Given that the company that owns it, Terrestar, has recently filed for bankruptcy, it may soon be up for sale."

      • by corbettw (214229)

        Terrestar? Hey, I interviewed with those guys four years ago. Guess it's a good thing I didn't get that job, after all.

      • "...the only reason someone would sell it is because it has become cheaper to buy a new one than to maintain the old one!"

        I fully expect some ISP out there to outbid these guys on the satellite simply to keep it out of their hands. Hell, they could drop a few million on the thing and simply let it rot in space--as long as the competition hurts more then them in the process, they still win.

        Either that, or they simply lobby Congress to block the purchase for whatever reason, probably for something along the l

        • by JTsyo (1338447)
          Don't think the ISPs are worrying about connection to the middle of no where. If they wanted the customers, they could have already gotten them service.
        • by timeOday (582209)
          This wouldn't need to be NEARLY as good as a commercial ISP to be very useful to people with nothing. For example, let's say you only get service for 5 minutes twice per day, with 2 second latency, and a daily cap of 10 KB.

          There's a lot you could do with that! You could stay in pretty good touch with the world, just with that. It would still be quicker to send a letter to anybody on earth than ANY mail service before the telegram. I would find it fascinating to have correspondence with somebody in Nor

      • Except the TFA makes one huge error - Terrestar has filed under Chapter 11 (reorganization), not Chapter 7 (dissolution). As TerreStar-1 is it's primary operational asset, the odds of it coming up for sale are somewhere between slim and none.

        And that's the *least* of the problems with the whole scheme... TerreStar-1 in in GEO, which means it will take weeks to months to relocate to cover a crisis area (making the dubious assumption that a parking slot is available). On top of that, the plan also assumes

    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      Buying a used satellite is like buying a used bus... the only reason someone would sell it is because it has become cheaper to buy a new one than to maintain the old one!

      Nice quip, but it isn't true.

      First of all, satellites don't have maintenance, unless it is something like the hubble telescope. You don't call your local tech support guy and have him fly up there and fix some wiring. If they don't work, you de-orbit them. So the maintenance cost is zero.

      Next, "cheaper to buy a new one" is unlikely to be true given the launch costs.

      • by vbraga (228124)

        If they don't work, you de-orbit them. So the maintenance cost is zero.

        Only if you ignore ground station costs. People, antennas, computers, orbit corrections if the reaction subsystem (I don't know if this is the correct translation) needs some work, and so on.

        Things (even the ones that are redundant) keeps failing - reaction wheels, foldable structures, and so on. - and the mechanical behavior might change a bit. Software corrections too.

        Keeping a spaceship flying is costly. I think buying used is somewhat a very strange idea. Satellites have a determined lifetime and, while

        • by sjames (1099)

          Old or new, those costs are the same. I believe the GP meant that the added costs for an older satellite are zero.

    • by mangu (126918) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @05:57PM (#35155134)

      Buying a used satellite is like buying a used bus... the only reason someone would sell it is because it has become cheaper to buy a new one than to maintain the old one!

      If you believe that, you don't know anything about the satellite communications business.

      I've been working at this for over a quarter of a century, and let me tell you that there are many factors that would influence buying a used satellite.

      - How much remaining lifetime does it have?
      - Do I need it right now, or can I wait the 2 years+ it would take to build a new one?
      - Is it in inclined orbit?
      - What's the coverage footprint?
      - What's the frequency plan?
      - What's the EIRP?
      - What's the receive G/T?
      - Do I have the landing rights?
      - Does it have failed transponders, or any other failure?

      It often happens that one has a satellite that will be perfect for someone else, but for our own specific purpose we need a replacement.

    • On several occasions I've purchased old school buses, with seats that were so decapitated they were no longer suitable for passengers, cut the back off of them and turned them into a cheap flatbed truck. Just because a device can no longer efficiently complete the task it was designed for does not mean it can not be repurposed for another, just as useful task,
    • by jandrese (485)
      Check out the satellite they're looking at: it was launched in 2009! The only reason it's up for sale is because the orignal owners went bankrupt.
  • At some point, its going to have to tie into earth bound networks. That's where a lot of the ongoing cost is going to come from. But then perhaps the backbone providers can allow access in exchange for a tax write off.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    These guys de-value what a human right actually is with this silly notion. It's simply a service, one that must be paid for, maintained and serviced.

    Nuff said.

    • Who says it is not "a human right"?

      Is there some objective standard that we can mathematically derive, or some deterministic algorithm we can apply?

      Or is there some global authority that makes the list? Well, it just so happens that the United Nations had a go at listing human rights, and in 1948 issued its "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" (DUHR). Here are some excerpts:

      Article 19
      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 21
      2. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

      Article 26
      1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

      Article 27
      1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

      Maybe it's not much of a stretch to say internet access should be available to everybody.

    • Access to information is a human right. Internet is a tool to enable it.

  • Woot! (Score:5, Funny)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @05:06PM (#35154652) Homepage Journal

    The moment some impoverished person starts sharing a shitty screener of True Grit, the MPAA will have a missile launched at the satellite.
  • As soon as they get a couple 100,000 users (most of which will likely be in developed nations, just don't wanna pay) they'll figure out a way to start charging. No ISP is free.
  • by StillNeedMoreCoffee (123989) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @05:15PM (#35154750)

    If we had the satelites above then it might be possible to bypass the kill switch in any country. Remove the Kill Switch option through parallel paths.

  • Or perhaps he could just sell his orbital slot like these guys [wikipedia.org] and use the money to establish a more honest government or a school.
  • Get ready to write a big check to Mr. Kepler...
    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Why? geosync satellites drift of their own accord without station keeping. If you are not in a rush it will be pretty cheap.

    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      I'm glad someone else posted this. Is it even possible to a geosynchronous satellite?

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'm glad someone else posted this. Is it even possible to a geosynchronous satellite?

        One time I accidentally a whole geosynchronous satellite.

      • Yes, commercial satellites can be moved to different orbital positions and occasionally are. For example to replace a failed satellite with an in-orbit spare or to deploy it to a new market or even to kick it out of its orbital slot at the end of its life. However, it may deplete the station keeping fuel (perhaps hydrazine gas) which may mean it then has less fuel to remain on station and hence a reduced residual service lifetime. I say may, because it may be that a highly inclined (ie, allowed to drift off
        • Telestar-1 (the satellite) was launched around 2009 and apparently is pretty advanced [terrestar.com]. Their website, although as usual devoid of anything remotely technical does have this to say:

          A significant factor in TerreStar's IOT success was validating that TerreStar-1's 18 meter 2GHz S Band reflector was performing as designed. It is this very large reflector that enables voice, data and video communications to be transmitted to mobile devices the size of a typical smartphone.

          "The completion of in-orbit testing has verified several new technologies developed by Space Systems/Loral and our key suppliers," said John Celli, President and Chief Operating Officer, Space Systems/Loral (SS/L). "We are pleased to report that all of the new developments meet or exceed performance expectations. In particular, the S-band antenna, which includes an 18-meter reflector developed by Harris Corporation and a complex feed array developed by SS/L, has been verified by measurements of the antenna patterns on the ground. The reflector mesh is correctly aligned to the feed and the surface shape is accurate."

          TerreStar is now entering the Ground Based Beam Forming (GBBF) testing phase. With GBBF, TerreStar-1 is capable of generating more than 500 simultaneous spot beams, enabling the satellite's power to be directed where it is needed the most at any point in time.

          Which strongly implies that it's pretty much state of the art. I rather doubt that this one is going to go on the block for only 150K and even it is, there are the previously mentioned holes in TFA - how they plan to move it, how they plan to get permission to move it, what orbit it is currently in vs. what they want, how they

          • by RogerWilco (99615)

            I'd like to know more about that Ground Based Beam Forming tech, sounds nifty, must be a pretty advanced antenna pattern.

            The whole plan would cost many millions of course. The 150k mentioned is only supposed to be a start so they can get real investors interested.Heck, building the ground station alone might be 10 million (I'm thinking a 20m dish with control mechanisms and such). The satellite itself is probably at least 150 million or so, if it comes up for sale at all, the owner is only in chapter 11. Th

  • Lantancy...

    There is a good reason why the internet isn't provided by satellites...

    • For many uses of the internet latency isn't a big issue.

    • by jon3k (691256)
      First of all, the Internet _is_ provided by satellite, to a lot of people. Second of all, the latency is probably better than the latency i get on verizon 3g aircards. And seriously, do you think the target audience is going to complain about 600, 800 or even more milliseconds of latency?
  • Wouldn't it be more beneficial to take the money and build the infrastructure for the internet inside the country? This way, not only do they get internet access, they get jobs through the construction and maintenance of the infrastructure. This puts more money into their economy, more people are going to be able to afford internet, and those who can't afford internet will at least have more money to spend on food. Since he'd be donating this, it can be given to a state that is actually trying to develop
    • by Isaac-1 (233099)

      Depending on the culture and stability in the country ground based infrastructure (particularly things like unmanned repeater sites, etc) make great targets for theft. The interenet is down again because someone stole the generator/solar panels, at the wireless repeater station on top of the mountain.

  • I'd rather buy the used Diamond Laser Satellite from James Bond Diamonds Are Forever: http://www.jamesbondmm.co.uk/gadgets/daf-gadgets?id=006 [jamesbondmm.co.uk]

    Do you think that I can get this recognized as a charity with a goal of: "Buying a giant diamond laser satellite that will be used to hold the world for ransom" ? The Bill Gates Foundation would certainly get on board.

  • The internet is not a right... a cellphone is not a right, a car is not a right, modern technology is not a right, it's a privilege. While it sucks that people in some parts of the world don't have access to our fancy dancy technology, they have more important things to worry about like clean water, healthy food, safety from oppressive governments and war. I doubt they care about free internet. The developed world already has free WIFI. I can connect to 3 or 4 "free" access points from my couch, or go to s
    • by blair1q (305137)

      The Internet is a right. Finland made it a legal right. The UN says it's a human right. French courts have ruled it's a fundamental right. The US told Egypt it's a right. 80% of Earthers polled say it's a right.

      Cutting off people's communications to dull their abilty to wage politics is one of those things no government should have the right to do. And that means that the internet is a right.

      Now, since the internet requires infrastructure, there's some question as to how it gets built out to you, but

    • Thanks for speaking on behalf of "people in some parts of the world". Reality check: clean water, healthy food, safety from oppressive governments and war are all access to information problems.

    • by sjames (1099)

      There are people in developing countries that have food, water, clothing, shelter and some electricity. It may not be all up to our standards, but they have it. They just need a good link to the internet. They are too remote to just leach off of 3 or 4 WiFi connections. Then they can improve their education and participation in the world. That, in turn will allow them to improve their standard of living further. That is the intent or the satellite.

      There are also cases like in Egypt or China where people hav

    • they have more important things to worry about like clean water, healthy food, safety from oppressive governments and war. I doubt they care about free internet.

      Yeah, modern technology has absolutely nothing to do with clean water and healthy food, and Internet access has nothing to do with safety from oppressive governments and war. Do you not follow the news?

  • Even if you scrape up the money to buy a geosynchronous satellite and move it, it still costs a fair amount of money to keep the satellite in orbit and on station. You also will need to have acquired an orbital slot to where you want to move it. And you also have to maintain one or more earth stations from which the data traffic relayed up to/back from the satellite has to travel and all the associated bandwidth. Much more expensive (most likely) are "landing rights" for each country where you want to provi

  • I'll pay (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495)
    Base your headquarters in some country that would be happy to have you and doesn't have the wests draconian Copyright laws, guarantee never to release my traffic records and to enforce Net Neutrality, and I'll pay you for this service. I'll pay more than I'm paying now. Then you can use that money to buy more satellites and set them up in impoverished countries all over the world. I'd happily pay for 3rd world to have internet access for free if it kept my internet access private.
    • by memnock (466995)

      Finally, a little optimism. I can understand the comments about poorer nations lacking other more important resources, such as drinkable water, and the discrepancy between supplies and needs. But every other comment and sig on /. talks about information wanting to be free, i.e. information/knowledge being available to anyone who can use it or improve on it, and yet a few here think that people everywhere having access to this information is not going to become useful to those people in poorer nations.

      What's

      • What's probably a more pertinent concern is the dearth of relevant information for those people.

        Well, everyone remembers: http://williamkamkwamba.typepad.com/ [typepad.com] we had a few posts here at /. about him.

        He pulled the information from the library; the books were in English, which he did not speak. Can't you imagine someone like him pulling similar instructions from makezine.com and running it through babel fish on his OLPCsystem? Even learning another language in the hopes of getting out of their impoverished area would be useful. Sure, all I use the internet for is pr0n and celebrity gossip, and every so

  • Here's the plan: Make a splash with an audacious goal that highlights a massive, underserved market. Gather celebrity sign ons and generally woot-woot around the mediaverse for a while. Encounter inevitable delays. Watch market players notice your efforts, do the math (uh, 5 billion potential customers? wait, really?) and move in ahead of you.

    I credit One Laptop Per Child not with distributing several hundred thousand laptops, which is a moderately nice thing to do, but kicking industry in the ass to invent

  • by slapout (93640) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @06:39PM (#35155526)

    There's a reason our society has progressed to the point of having internet access almost everywhere -- it has been built on all the things that came before it. We developed clean drinking water systems, sanitation, roads, markets, all of which lead us to a point where we not only had the tech to have internet everywhere -- but also the time to use it since we don't have to worry about all the other things.

  • by Tx (96709) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @07:18PM (#35155938) Journal

    The Buy This Satellite site was mentioned [theregister.co.uk] on The Register a couple of months ago; that's the fundraising site for this project. I'll let The Register article speak for itself as far as casting doubt on the viability, but I think you get the gist from the headline; "Crazed buy-a-satellite-for-the-poor scheme raises $16k - Only a $hitload and a clue to find now"

  • Great. Spam from Space. That's just what the developing world needs.

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