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posted by Cactus on Wednesday February 26 2014, @07:00AM   Printer-friendly
from the don't-panic-and-always-know-where-your-towel-is dept.

AnonTechie writes

Media Development Investment Fund, a New York based non-profit, is looking to offer a world-wide data stream free of charge.
Dubbed the 'Outernet', the network will broadcast a one-way data stream to the entire world via a network of mini satellites. The idea is to bridge the digital divide, offering some of the most important (and basic) information on the internet to people regardless of location.

Outernet has posted intention to deliver staples such as: local and international news, OpenStreetMap, Wikipedia, Ubuntu, various educational courseware, and emergency communications systems for use when cell systems fail.

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  • (Score: 5, Funny) by SockPuppet on Wednesday February 26 2014, @07:02AM

    by SockPuppet (157) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @07:02AM (#7164)

    To thunderous applause.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26 2014, @08:17AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26 2014, @08:17AM (#7195)

      I absolutely loathe the one-way aspect of this. Having said this it could have a large positive impact IF and that's a big IF the material was very carefully curated to exclude western propaganda, however subtle. But as that probably will not happen and just might be impossible to do anyways...

      Looks like they list the material they will use to indoctrinate people with. Doesn't look too curated at all. So all in all, this would be just another sad propaganda outlet. Ironically it might not be intended that way however, hard to say.

      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by jb on Wednesday February 26 2014, @11:26AM

        by jb (338) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @11:26AM (#7233)

        it could have a large positive impact IF and that's a big IF the material was very carefully curated to exclude western propaganda

        If propaganda is to be excluded, surely all propaganda should be excluded. Is Eastern propaganda really any closer to the truth than Western propaganda? I think not.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by zocalo on Wednesday February 26 2014, @11:06AM

      by zocalo (302) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @11:06AM (#7229)
      Actually, that's probably not too far off how this will work. Tune in at a specific time of day and "channel" for a feed of all Wikipedia articles on a given theme, a bunch of LOLCatz videos, the latest $distro .ISO image, current affairs, Adobe/Apple/Microsoft/Oracle patches, sports results, the almost inevitable propaganda, and so on. Repressive regimes are going to hate it.

      Way back the BBC used to use a side channel on their TV broadcasts to transmit simple textual information pages [wikipedia.org] in a rotating sequence, some of which were used to send BBC Micro programmes. This sounds like a vastly updated version of system, and with the hugely increased bandwidth available could actually provide quite a useful service.
      --
      UNIX? They're not even circumcised! Savages!
      • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Snow on Wednesday February 26 2014, @05:07PM

        by Snow (1601) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @05:07PM (#7406) Journal

        Interesting. I wonder what type of satellite constellation they will use? Something like this might work with a highly elliptical orbit to allow for long loiter times over the targeted area similar to sirius radio.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Foobar Bazbot on Wednesday February 26 2014, @06:18PM

          by Foobar Bazbot (37) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @06:18PM (#7444) Journal

          You seem to believe they have any intent of launching satellites. On Outernet's site, there's a lot about the benefits of the proposed system, a little about characteristics of the proposed system, and nothing at all about a plan to actually create the system. I may be cynical, but at this point it looks a little too much like a scam -- tap into people's emotions about how much the broadcast-only phase will help those poor savages around the world, tap into their greed with the promise that the next step will be absolutely-free, two-way internet access for your smartphone, collect their donations, and laugh all the way to the bank.

          Of course it's also possible that they do intend to launch the satellite, but are fundraising before they have a real plan, on the theory that, once they have enough money, they can hire an engineer to come up with a plan meeting whatever constraints they've already committed to -- I guess Hanlon's Razor supports this explanation. Or maybe they have a "plan", but it's so ridiculous they're afraid to post it because they know it will be torn apart in short order... better to forgo a few donations from people who, like me, won't donate to such a project without technical details, than to lose lots of donations when "Rocket Scientists: Outernet Plan is 'Crackpottery'" headlines are all over the news.

          Anyway, assuming good faith, the limited details that have been released suggest a massive (100s of birds) LEO constellation. The eccentric geosynchronous orbit of Sirius's original satellites takes them well beyond GEO at apogee, requiring rather large antennae to get usable signal strength on the ground. The Outernet people plan to use rather small satellites, which means small antennas, which means low gain, which (in conjunction with low-cost ground stations) means low altitude.

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by nobbis on Wednesday February 26 2014, @07:08AM

    by nobbis (62) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @07:08AM (#7166) Homepage Journal

    I wonder which country will be the first to shoot down one of these satellites, a kind of proactive firewall if you will.

    --
    It's easy to look up when your mind's in the gutter
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by bitshifter on Wednesday February 26 2014, @07:31AM

      by bitshifter (2241) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @07:31AM (#7174)

      Shooting down satellites may have international repercussions.
      But they don't have to actually shoot them down, you know.

      Soviet Union and other dictatorships used to simply block western radio transmissions with white noise.
      This is not different.

      • (Score: 5, Informative) by maxwell demon on Wednesday February 26 2014, @07:43AM

        by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @07:43AM (#7178) Journal

        If the white noise is produced on earth, a parabolic antenna should be enough to select only the satellite signal. If necessary, continue the parabola until the focal point is inside, so it doesn't get any stray signals from the sides.

        Radio transmissions could be effectively blocked because those senders could be located at the borders, that is, the white noise came from the same direction from which also the intended signal came.

        Now you could certainly send white-noise satellite into orbit, but I doubt that you could easily restrict that white noise to a country (unless your country has the size of Russia or China, and you're willing to accept that close to the borders it doesn't work). As soon as the white noise disturbs reception in other countries, it may again have international repercussions.

        (And BTW, if your country is too small, you may even have trouble with terrestrial white noise leaving the country at the opposite border.)

        --
        The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
      • (Score: 1) by AnythingGoes on Wednesday February 26 2014, @11:28PM

        by AnythingGoes (3345) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @11:28PM (#7630)

        Or they can just make it illegal to listen to those transmissions and tell neighbours to inform on those who are listening to them...like how people of vaguely "middle eastern descent" are being reported by their neighbours now... sounds a lot like certain countries in the 50s-80s

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by gishzida on Wednesday February 26 2014, @07:52AM

      by gishzida (2870) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @07:52AM (#7185) Journal

      KillSats are "expensive". There are very few States which have the resources and the infrastructure to launch KillSats. It's easier to outlaw the "receivers" and publicly "firewall" [which is to say "shoot"] the users discovered in the possession of "illegal foreign technology". A bullet used locally is far cheaper than a missile. This latter is the method that North Korea and some other "Failed" or "near Failed" states would probably use to suppress "free information" if this is actually developed.

      Reading web pages of the organizations about selling "investment in emerging media markets" makes one think they are selling the ability to "propagandized" those same markets. This makes me wonder how "a New York based non-profit" would obtain the money and the permission to build such a satellite network. Could this be "government propaganda" dollars at work [Think "Voice of America" for the new century]?

      • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Wednesday February 26 2014, @09:58PM

        by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @09:58PM (#7580) Journal

        publicly "firewall" [which is to say "shoot"]

        "firewall" because they are put up against the wall, and then someone shouts "fire"?

        --
        The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
  • (Score: 5, Funny) by nukkel on Wednesday February 26 2014, @07:54AM

    by nukkel (168) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @07:54AM (#7186)

    ... haven't experienced the Internet yet. Much like it is with outercourse vs. intercourse, really.

    Of course, this being SN, that analogy might not mean much to most :)

    • (Score: 2, Funny) by gishzida on Wednesday February 26 2014, @08:22AM

      by gishzida (2870) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @08:22AM (#7196) Journal
      So what are you trying to say about SN users? Are you trying to say most SN users still live in their mother's basement or that they have never had sex? or that they've never had sex in said basement? or that SN user's never had a basement and regularly have intercourse [There's a compiler for that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brainfuck [wikipedia.org] ]?
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by glyph on Wednesday February 26 2014, @11:39AM

      by glyph (245) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @11:39AM (#7236)

      Outercourse/Intercourse, whatever. Sex is sex, it's only Catholics that make a distinction. Now, a one-way internet is very different to the internet. You are basically talking about cable TV.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by mvar on Wednesday February 26 2014, @08:01AM

    by mvar (2539) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @08:01AM (#7188)

    so this is something like teletext on steroids?

    • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Wednesday February 26 2014, @10:00PM

      by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @10:00PM (#7582) Journal

      Except that the TV signal around it is missing.

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by space_in_your_face on Wednesday February 26 2014, @08:07AM

    by space_in_your_face (224) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @08:07AM (#7190)

    Important and basic information seems to be ill defined. How can this be something else than western propaganda? Or at least the promotion of our way of life?

    • (Score: 4, Funny) by dublet on Wednesday February 26 2014, @09:57AM

      by dublet (2994) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @09:57AM (#7222)

      I'm guessing it'll be mainly porn? That's pretty important and basic, right?

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by suxen on Wednesday February 26 2014, @10:30AM

      by suxen (3225) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @10:30AM (#7224)

      I live in a third world country, this is relevant to my interests.

      Rather than seeing a one way stream of mostly irrelevant data from outer space, I would see localnets which need have no permanent or broadly available internet connection, which host locally relevant information which communities themselves consider valuable. Information which I consider important would be local information on growing food, local weather alamancs, etc. where available and important cultural texts, such as the bible, baghavad-gita, works of aristotle, things like that. Yes the cultural texts may be considered propoganda.

      By my experiences, the content the locals will consider important will be mostly pirated american and japanese games, movies and music. Yes people are the same everywhere and these media are good honeypots to get the communities using the new technology.

      International content deemed important can be hosted on local mirrors (I've always thought wikipedia would be a good one, I for one would hate to lose access to it) and what sparse data does come in from the international webs can be kept locally in caching proxies and such. Most importantly, communities are capable of creating and sharing content among themselves.

      • (Score: 5, Informative) by Jaruzel on Wednesday February 26 2014, @12:30PM

        by Jaruzel (812) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @12:30PM (#7247) Homepage Journal

        International content deemed important can be hosted on local mirrors (I've always thought wikipedia would be a good one, I for one would hate to lose access to it)

        Not sure how useful this is to you, as you don't specify how robust your personal connection to the web is, but Wikipedia offer full downloads of their database for exactly what you suggest:

        Wikipedia Database Download Page [wikipedia.org]

        -Jar

        --
        This is my opinion, there are many others, but this one is mine.
        • (Score: 1) by suxen on Friday February 28 2014, @09:38AM

          by suxen (3225) on Friday February 28 2014, @09:38AM (#8389)

          Thanks. We are engaged with local tech businesses to get content servers out into areas where there is no affordable internet. To download that would cost me a fortune, but some sites I work from have uncapped lines, so I will do it from there.

      • (Score: 2) by starcraftsicko on Thursday February 27 2014, @12:43AM

        by starcraftsicko (2821) on Thursday February 27 2014, @12:43AM (#7678) Journal

        Sounds like you want some BBSs to me. Those were the days...

        --
        This post was created with recycled electrons.
  • (Score: 5, Funny) by unitron on Wednesday February 26 2014, @09:07AM

    by unitron (70) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @09:07AM (#7209) Journal

    Only in outer space will you be able to escape the stench of Beta.

    --
    something something Slashcott something something Beta something something
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by MrGuy on Wednesday February 26 2014, @11:58AM

    by MrGuy (1007) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @11:58AM (#7240)

    This feels like one of those projects that an "outside savior" would come up with - I know (without really asking) what people who are different from me must need, and I'm going to build that solution! Start thanking me now.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Phoenix666 on Wednesday February 26 2014, @03:29PM

    by Phoenix666 (552) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @03:29PM (#7333) Journal

    After Hurricane Sandy I went to a couple hackathons last year that focused on flashing routers with open firmware to build ad-hoc mesh networks. Their focus was on temporary infrastructure in the wake of disasters. The implications for me were wider. If a repressive government shuts down wired networks, ad-hoc mesh networks can spring up to take their place. As we discussed the ad-hoc networks at the hackathons, though, we were talking about a few hops before reaching a back-haul. Anything beyond that seems like it would experience crippling latency. An open-source satellite network seems like it would be more effective, were it two-way, of course. Does anyone more knowledgeable about networks have links or know of projects working to build systems like this outside the control of governments or corporations?

    --
    Washington DC delenda est.
    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday February 26 2014, @08:10PM

      by VLM (445) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @08:10PM (#7524)

      Talking about "providing internet access just like a cablemodem" or more generically transferring information using computers but probably not the UI you wanted? Soccer mom is going to freak out if you give her a BBS account on a FIDONET node or a UUCP usenet node, when what she really wanted to do was "like" her friends cat videos on facebook.

      There's nothing inherently "internet" about a wireless access point. Plug it into a machine with a DHCP server and a web browser and it'll be happy. Humorously a lot of end users and media consumption devices assume any open wifi signal "must" be connected to the internet. Not so!

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by eravnrekaree on Wednesday February 26 2014, @06:18PM

    by eravnrekaree (555) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @06:18PM (#7443)

    This sounds like nothing more than a mass media/psychological control delivery system. One of the most powerful uses of the internet is alternative sources of information. The term "Most Important" in this article is most likely to mean CBS. CNN, MSNBC and other elite controlled mouthpieces of the regimes in power.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26 2014, @08:24PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26 2014, @08:24PM (#7536)

      Or you can visit their website and see what they will broadcast. They might deliver something like CNN, but also Al-Jazeera so I could get differing viewpoints. In somewhere like North Korea they might deliver local propaganda, but also international news that is more legitimate. The point is the restrictions are lifted on what the people have access to.

      WHAT WILL OUTERNET DELIVER?

      NEWS AND INFORMATION
      International and local news
      Crop prices for farmers
      Bitcoin blockchains

      APPLICATIONS AND CONTENT
      Ubuntu & OpenStreetMap
      Wikipedia in its entirety
      Movies, music, games
      EDUCATIONAL COURSEWARE
      Khan Academy and Coursera
      British Council's LearnEnglish
      Teachers Without Borders

      EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS
      Used when cellular networks fail
      Disaster relief coordination
      Global notification system

      • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Wednesday February 26 2014, @10:05PM

        by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday February 26 2014, @10:05PM (#7583) Journal

        What good are bitcoin blockchains if you don't have a back channel needed to actually spend or accept bitcoins?

        --
        The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.