How To Fix A Censored Internet: Build A New One In Space
Supporters of the Stop Online Piracy Act, and their corporate backers in the movie and recording industries, are on the war path. They’re easily out-spending their opponents in the internet world and unless something miraculous happens, it’s only a matter of time before SOPA brings an end to the internet as we know it, replacing it with a kind of digital plutocracy where the unchecked allegations of copyright owners become the incontestable rule of law. Fortunately, the internet’s citizenry isn’t planning on taking this sitting down.
Every week, more and more solutions are being proposed to restore the internet should it fall to corporate lobbyists in Washington. Several browser plugins like Tamer Rizk’s De-SOPA and MAFIAAFire’s The Pirate Bay Dancing! enable access to blocked domains by automating the old trick of accessing them direct through their IP addresses. Others are building “invisible” networks accessible only via client software — I2P, for example, protects individuals by effectively anonymizing all internet traffic in a way similar to the old anti-censorship standby Tor.
But a group of hackers have set their sights even higher: Building a new internet in space. At Germany’s annual Chaos Communications Congress, which this year hosted famed internet advocate and author Cory Doctorow, the group laid out their plans for a DIY satellite network, the Hackerspace Global Grid. With it, they hope to liberate information networks in the U.S. and elsewhere from all forms of terrestrial control, creating a truly decentralized, uncensorable internet beaming down to everyone from low-earth orbit.
Like anything going above the stratosphere, however, there are still kinks to be worked out. Aside from getting stuff into space in the first place, the group must also create mobile base stations so that the signals can be received from orbit and distributed to all the folks down below. Satellite movement is also tricky depending on where in the world you are — objects in orbits not fixated around the equator move faster and less predictably, for example.
It sounds like something out of a utopian cyberpunk novel for now, but if the hackers can manage some degree of success with this ambitious project, the satellites would certainly be the crown jewel of the “internet is a human right” mantra. At least until someone sends up spaceships with lasers to zap them all down.