Is free Internet coming soon to the whole world?

Summary:A nonprofit wants to give everyone access to the Internet -- even in countries with censor-happy governments -- with tiny satellites.

 
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A New York-based nonprofit sees the access to information through the Internet as a human right. But with global Internet penetration only around one-third, there are a lot of people who aren't able to access the vast amount of information available online. 

That's why the Media Development Investment Fund is embarking on a project to transmit Internet data around the world at no cost

The project, known as Outernet, will deploy a network of small satellites that will allow anyone in the world with a Wi-Fi enabled device, including mobile phones, to receive select Internet data for free.  

"Outernet will bypass censorship, ensure privacy and offer worldwide access to information to everyone, including those who today are beyond the geographic reach of the internet or can’t afford it," said MDIF CEO Harlan Mandel, in a press release.

In addition to being able to see information previously restricted by governments or poor infrastructure, the network can be useful during disasters to transmit public service announcements, when other forms of communication are offline. 

The one catch, according to Phys.org, is that the satellites will only broadcast the information one-way, for now. That means that users won't be able to interact with the websites in the way they're intended, making the service less useful than a two-way connection. That could come later on with more funding.

MDIF plans to use tiny CubeSat satellites for the project and the first test run could come as soon as January

But Project Outernet isn't the only one with aspirations to bring Internet to parts of the world without it. Google's Project Loon has similar ambitions, but with balloons instead of satellites. And  Facebook's Internet.org project  is bringing together tech companies and telecoms to improve global Internet access. 

Photo: NASA

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Topics: Innovation

About

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter.

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