Control Space for Internet Democracy – Today!

PH Satellite 07-2020

We agree we need more Internet connectivity and speed.[1]

The DICT’s National Broadband Plan intends to improve the fiber optic spine of the country to bring us more connectivity and speed – next year.  1B of an estimated 10B project has been approved by Congress.[2]

Trouble is we need the greater speed and connectivity this year.   Banks, BPOs, and schools demand this.

Everybody does.  What used to be a privilege for some, has morphed into a right for all.  Like freshwater, fresh air, electricity, health care, humane shelter, and quality education, what used to be the privilege of the rich is now a right for all.  The right flows from a shared will to create an Information Society “where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities, and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and promoting their quality of life…”[3]  This includes the right to use the internet for education in a pandemic year.

That many don’t have internet access, or that many have it, but have it insufficiently, is not a fault of God’s creation, but a result of human improvidence.  And lack of attention to the social injustices that good enterprises often create.

But it may also be that we are not taking advantage of technology readily available.

In solving the problem of lack of internet access, why crawl, when we can fly?  Why go under the water, when we can go to space?  Why wait till next year for a solution when we can already solve the problem this year?[4]

My suggestion:  control space (outer space!) for greater internet equity.   Control internet technology through satellites for greater internet democracy.   Beyond the limited bandwidth and speeds the present ISPs can provide, harvest today connectivity in appropriate speeds from satellites in space to bring quality Internet service to those who do not have it.  Control space technology to make sure that it is not duopolized by current Internet Service Providers, but used to provide Internet service where it has been notoriously – if not unjustly – weak.  As in Mindanao – and especially the BARMM.

Internet connectivity through communication satellites provides us with the ability to link even the remotest island or town throughout the Philippine archipelago. A single geostationary satellite can cover one-third of the whole planet. That’s more than enough to provide coverage for the whole Philippines and even beyond! By using satellites in space, we minimize the need for transmission towers or even a fiber network, especially if the connection is localized to specific areas such as schools or public spaces. Satellite connectivity truly shines in providing internet access to isolated communities that do not have ground-based connectivity through telcos. The modularity and scalability of the system also allow it to be rolled out very quickly (in a matter of months instead of years!) in many locations as needed. Before the end of the year, we can even have areas linked with the rest of the world when they haven’t been connected for the longest time. And it’s about time!

In a post-COVID world, connectivity is already a necessity, no longer a luxury. It is already a right, not a privilege. Fast deployment, widespread reach, reliable connection, reasonable cost. These things make the satellite connectivity an obvious solution to the increasing need for internet access, especially for education. It was already challenging to ensure quality education prior to the pandemic. This should end now. Those who have not should no longer be penalized by their lack of access.  No student should be left behind, especially if the reason is beyond their control. Quality Education and Reduced Inequalities are two of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. If through the use of satellites we can ensure that we meet these goals, then by all means we should the technology currently available to provide a bright and better future for our youth.

Control space for social justice in internet access and use.  Make sure that the realm of space technology remains in the hands of those passionate for Internet social justice.  So why not forge a public-private partnership between the DICT and those who advocate internet democracy?  Why not design a system where users of internet technology from space become owners of it in using it?   Let schools, even non-stock non-profit schools, invest in this as they would invest in new classrooms, solar panels, and servers, and let revenues improve their scholarship funds or their teachers’ salaries.  But not just schools.  Let the people of the BARMM invest in this resource.  Let those who are to benefit most from internet democracy become co-owners of internet space technology in the Philippines.  For every time they buy load from satellites, let their micro share in owning the technology grow.

If this idea can fly, why not work to put up Philippine satellites owned by the people?  That would bring the cost of internet connectivity from satellites down.   The prospect of putting up satellites in the national interest was why we now have a Philippine Space Agency.  Trouble is, instead of exploring space and its certain benefits, we are happy to crawl.

The result:  they will spend a billion next year on fiber-optic spine.  This year, we will remain frustrated.

Unless we decide to benefit from satellite technology today.

 

 


[1] Cf.: https://taborasj.wordpress.com/2020/07/09/urgent-need-to-increase-internet-connectivity-and-speed/

[2]  Please visit:  https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1073332

[3]  Statement of the World Summit on the Information Society, 2003, quoted in:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_Internet_access

[4] Cf: “The Evolving Role of Satellite Networks in Rural and Remote Broadband Access” OECD Digital Economy Papers, Dec. 2017, No. 264.  “…the report investigates how innovation is changing the role of satellites in extending broadband services to underserved areas in relation to other terrestrial broadband options.” https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/science-and-technology/the-evolving-role-of-satellite-networks-in-rural-and-remote-broadband-access_7610090d-en#page1

 

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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