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Ahumanright.org Aims to Buy Commercial Satellite for the World’s Poor

A new organization has an audacious goal: buying and reconfiguring a communications satellite to bring free, low-speed Internet to the global south.

TerreStar satellite

 

A new NGO is attempting to
bring affordable Internet to the developing
world by buying its own satellite. Ahumanright.org,
a Berlin-based non-profit, is bidding for a commercial satellite it can repurpose and use to beam bandwidth. To help make that happen they’ve recruited the founder of XM Radio, and partnered Deutsche Telekom and the NASA Ames Research Center.

The satellite in question is
TerreStar-1, a
communications satellite currently operated by the TerreStar
Corporation
.
TerreStar filed
for Chapter 11
in October 2010 and is currently embroiled in a
complex
legal struggle
with Sprint Nextel. Ahumanright will solicit $150,000 from online donations, develop
a business plan
, and purchase TerreStar-1 in cooperation with the government of Papua
New Guinea.

A satellite parked in
geosynchronous orbit over Papua New Guinea would offer access to
portions of South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Siberia,
Australia, and Polynesia. Revenues from the sale and lease of orbital
slots are already an income
source
for Papua New Guinea.

In an interview with Space.com, Ahumanright.org founder Kosta
Grammatis outlined a complicated
scheme
: funds raised by
selling high-speed bandwidth to communications companies would be
reinvested into offering slower bandwidth for free
via TerreStar-1. Engineers affiliated with
ahumanright.org would create an open-source, low-cost modem for less than US$100. Says Grammatis:

Ahumanright is charged with
promoting Internet access as a human right. The organization also
promotes endeavors that can ensure everyone has a chance to get
online. We try to do this in three different ways: Connect with
businesses and governments and discuss the creation of a “free”
segment to their networks; envisioning our own free network with
our friends at NASA; buy[ing] and
re-purpose underutilized infrastructure.

Grammatis is a former engineer for
Elon Musk’s private spaceflight firm, SpaceX. His background is in developing
cybernetic cameras
. Deutsche Telekom provided his seed funding, while the advisory board includes XM cofounder Noah
Samara and Deutsche Telekom CTO Thomas Curran. Ahumanright also gets assistance from the Bertlesmann Foundation,
the NASA Ames Research Center and Skadden LLP.

Documents
released by Ahumanright are long on rhetoric and short on
specifics. Still, its plan is too
interesting to ignore. It will require serious funding, but the
infrastructure payoff would be enormous.

[Image of TerreStar-1 via TerreStar
Corporation
]

Follow Neal Ungerleider on
Twitter
.

 

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