Broadband Satellites

BROADBAND SATELLITES. Amazon has announced plans to join SpaceX and other big tech companies in launching satellites to offer broadband access. 
The concept, whilst potentially exciting in terms of offering wifi coverage in remote regions, raises important questions. 
The first relates to the intended altitude of these vehicles. If they were low enough on their orbit they may be visible to the naked eye, at least at night. 
Enough visible satellites of this type might have noticeable effects on our sense of personal autononomy and security. 
This is especially so given the high degree of surveillance we currently ancounter via social media accounts, CCTV coverage and, most recently, the use of police cameras to feed facial recognition systems. 
We ought also to consider the fact that today's satellite, however small, will eventually become tomorrow's high-tech junk. 
This is true whether defunct units return to earth or are left to continue in orbit without purpose. 
According to NASA, there are more than 500,000 pieces of junk floating in Earth’s orbit. These include redundant satellites, rocket boosters and nuts and bolts. 
Each represents a major threat to astronauts and their craft. 
Questions also arise about the impact of these satellites on national security. Any computerised device can be hacked, if enough time, money and talent are invested to that end. 
Various state security agencies have already been accused of hacking nuclear and communication systems belonging to foreign states. 
Satellites present wonderful targets for this form of interference, given their propensity for use as surveillance units or disseminators of propaganda or fake news. 
A final question relates to the price big tech companies might demand in terms of their rights to collect, analyse and sell personal or corporate data generated in the process of providing broadband. 
Big tech companies have not exactly covered themselves in glory when it comes to data security or seeking consumer approval before sharing or selling data. 
In the end, though, perhaps the biggest argument in favour of, at the very least, very heavy regulation of broadband satellites, is that the sky belongs to all of us.  
It should not be allowed to become a big blue corporate sporting arena.

© Copyright with Mal Fletcher

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