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Opinion: Elon Musk and the specter of global control over the Internet

Elon Musk's, Opinion: Elon Musk and the specter of global control over the Internet

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – (Opinion) Two projects play almost no role in the current public discussion but are of existential importance for the future of all humanity.

One is the development of digital central bank currencies, which could put all financial matters under complete control by the state(s); the other is populating space with thousands of satellites that give the whole world access to the Internet.

The scary thing is that, concerning the second development, we are no longer talking about a distant future but are already facing a fait accompli.

over 1700 satellites orbiting the earth.
Over 1700 satellites orbiting the earth. (Photo internet reproduction)

As became known only recently, Elon Musk’s company ‘Starlink’, a subsidiary of his space company ‘Space X’, has been providing the planet (except for the north and south poles) with access to broadband Internet since the beginning of August 2021, with over 1700 satellites orbiting the earth.

The cost of the starter set, which consists of a satellite dish and a WLAN router, is about US$500 (Germany), depending on the country.

The monthly connection fee is around US$99 (Germany). The fact that the price for each customer terminal is currently about US$500 less than the production cost shows what Musk is seeking – global market domination through entry using dumping prices.

Musk announced last year at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that he expects to have half a million paying users within the first year.

His math may work out. The Starlink satellites can transport the Internet signal remarkably quickly because they fly in a low-Earth orbit.

Although they burn up after five to seven years, they are already being replenished. Starlink has submitted applications for a total of 40,000 satellites to the responsible U.S. authority, the Federal Communications Commission, and has received approval for just under 12,000 satellites.

The competitive advantages for Musk’s company have increased enormously in recent months. Competitor Richard Branson bet on the wrong partner with OneWeb and is practically out of the race after its insolvency. Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin is lagging and is unlikely to catch up with Starlink.

Moreover, Musk holds another trump card. Since laying cables in large areas of developing and emerging countries and in rural regions of industrialized countries is very cost-intensive, and the people living there desperately want to be digitally connected, he can be sure of the support of influential partners.

Both telecommunications companies and banks have an imminent interest in securing customers in these areas. They are not likely to be averse to absorbing part of Musk’s start-up costs.

GERMANY

In Germany, this attitude was made clear by a statement from Telekom chief Timotheus Höttges. He said, “I think this is a good technology to serve people who don’t have infrastructure so far.”

Höttges also left no doubt about what he thinks of Elon Musk: “I’m a great admirer of him and his ideas.”

Höttges is not alone in Germany. The authorities are also getting involved. The German Federal Network Agency officially granted Space X frequency rights for Internet via satellite in December 2020. And the Rhineland-Palatinate Supervisory and Service Directorate has had Starlink antennas set up in some of the towns destroyed by the floods.

Neither the private sector nor governments seems interested in the dangers that Elon Musk’s projects entail, even though they are considerable.

For one thing, the increasing number of satellites in near-Earth orbits increases the likelihood of collisions that could lead to a chain reaction and form a debris cloud that, in a worst-case scenario, would render near-Earth space unusable for continued satellite operations for decades to come.

Second, Starlink going it alone means that global data traffic will be controlled to an ever greater extent by a single company – and ultimately by a single individual.

It says a lot about the current state of politics and the media that these developments, which are so crucial for the future of mankind, are hardly ever publicly discussed.

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