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Growing the Internet 21 November 2022

LEO Satellites for Internet—Why the Next Two Years Are Critical

Dan York
By Dan YorkDirector, Internet Technology

Are the low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite systems launched by companies like OneWeb, SpaceX, and Amazon, good for the open Internet? Or will they introduce risks, and be unaffordable to the people who need Internet access the most?

Over this past year, we’ve explored the issues, spoken with experts, and received feedback from over 120 members of the Internet Society community. Today we are pleased to announce a new paper:

We see considerable potential in the use of LEO satellites for Internet access for unserved or under-served communities, especially where there are few other ways of delivering Internet access. We also see great potential for Internet access to communities affected by natural or human disaster, and to increase the overall resilience of Internet connectivity. But there’s one big caveat. As of late 2022, most LEO constellations are in early stages of deployment and there are still many unknowns.

As the LEO-based industry matures over the next few years, we must guide the discussion and shape the future of this new form of Internet access—to protect the Internet and help make sure this emerging technology can serve the people who need it most.

We encourage you to download and read this paper. Please share it widely with colleagues, policymakers, regulators, and anyone interested in satellites or Internet access. Share it on social networks. Write about it, talk about it, speak about it. Critique it, too—tell us where you disagree. The paper goes beyond what you might normally see in the media, and we want to generate deeper discussions.

The next two years are critical, with more LEO satellite systems being launched and more capabilities becoming available.

In the months and years ahead, there will be many policy, technology, and societal debates. We need to work together to shape those conversations so that LEO-based Internet access is open, secure, trustworthy, and available to everyone. Perspectives on LEO Satellites provides the necessary background to do that—and it helps everyone understand the questions we should be asking.

Thank you to everyone who has been involved in the creation of this document. In June, we shared our preliminary research with our global community and asked for your feedback. Over 120 people responded! That feedback along with our research and interactions with experts in the industry have made the document stronger. Thank you for your valuable insights and all you’ve done to make this paper come to life!

We see LEO systems as a valuable new way to provide Internet access and bring the Internet to everyone. We need your help to ensure that as those systems come online, they continue to build a bigger, stronger Internet that is open, globally connected, secure, and trustworthy for everyone!

P.S. You can also join us in the LEOs community in Connect to engage in discussions and share information about LEO systems!

Read Perspectives on LEO Satellites.

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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