Q&A: Engineer Hopes to Buy Satellite to Provide Free Internet

A still from a video explaining how entrepreneurs hope to re-park an ailing satellite to provide free Internet for developing countries.
(Image: © ahumanright.org)

Oneman's bankrupt satellite company is another man's opportunity to spread freeInternet across the world. That's the hope of Kosta Grammatis, CEO and founderof ahumanright.org, who sees having an Internet connection as a basic necessity— in fact, a human right — for every global citizen.

Grammatisis raising $150,000 to create a business plan for buyinga communications satellite and moving it to a new orbital slot to providefree Internet service to developing countries. He has his sights set on theTerreStar-1 satellite: a spacecraft the size of a school bus that launched in2009 and is owned by a company that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protectionin October.

Theidea of making free Internet available to all may sound like a pipe dream, butGrammatis has the right combination of technical background and ambition forthe job. His resume includes working as an engineer for private spaceflightcompany SpaceX,as well as creating a bionic eye camera to transform a one-eyed filmmaker into"Eyeborg."

Grammatisand his team plan to pay the bills by allowing telecommunications companies tobuy and resell high-speed bandwidth, even as they provide a slower connectionspeed for free to everyone. They have also begun to develop an open-source,low-cost modem that could provide developing countries with their link to thesatellite and the rest of the world.

Toachieve this dream, ahumanright.org launched a "Buy This Satellite"initiative on a new website.

SPACE.com: What are thebasic goals of ahumanright.org?

Grammatis:ahumanright is charged with promoting Internet access as a human right. The organization also promotes endeavors that can ensure everyone has achance 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
  • We have been envisioning our own free network with our friends at NASA and other industry experts
  • We attempt to buy and re-purpose underutilized infrastructure to bring free Internet to the people

SPACE.com: How muchgeographical coverage can TerreStar-1provide in terms of Internet? Could it provide service to all of Africa?

Grammatis:Currently it can cover all of America, southern Canada and northern Mexico. Not entirely Africa.

SPACE.com: Whatconsiderations are going into the choice of where to park the satellite? Howwill you weigh public or donor opinions?

Grammatis:That is a very complicated question that has no simple answer. 

SPACE.com: How much do youenvision the open-source, low-cost modem might cost?

Grammatis:We're aiming for less than $100, but that's dependent on a lot offactors. 

SPACE.com: Do you have anybusiness partners or larger-scale funders in mind?

Grammatis:Plenty. Google comes to mind first, RichardBranson second. People and organizations who like taking big risks anddoing things that have a lot of positive impact.

SPACE.com: Are there anypossible plans to repeat this process for other satellites, if this ultimatelyproves successful?

Grammatis:Already in the works! We've got another collaboration coming together thatshould be announced soon if things go as planned.

Tocontribute to "Buy This Satellite's" goal of raising $150,000, go here.

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