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Can Google Connect the Unconnected 2/3 To the Internet? 99

lpress (707742) writes "Google, along with Facebook, is a founding partner of, which seeks "affordable internet access for the two thirds of the world not yet connected." Google is trying to pull it off — they have projects or companies working on Internet connectivity using high-altitude platforms and low and medium-earth orbit satellites. These extra-terrestrial approaches to connectivity have been tried before, without success, but Google is revisiting them using modern launch technology (public and private), antennas, solar power, radios and other electronics, as well as tuning of TCP/IP protocols to account for increased latency. For example, they just acquired Skybox Imaging, which has a low-earth orbit satellite for high resolution video imaging. In the short run, Skybox is about data, video and images, but the long range goal may be connectivity in developing nations and rural areas — substituting routers for telescopes. Skybox plans to operate a constellation of low-earth orbit satellites and that sounds a lot like Teledesic's attempt at providing connectivity in the mid 1990s, using the technology of 2014."
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Can Google Connect the Unconnected 2/3 To the Internet?

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  • by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @06:03PM (#47242315)

    Google wil never ever connect the tinfoil people to the internet. It may be any company in the world, but not Google.

  • Split up Google (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Content and distribution in one hand should be illegal.

  • by kruach aum ( 1934852 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @06:08PM (#47242349)

    From Google's perspective it does of course, because more people online are more people to sell ads to. But what about us, other connected citizens of earth? Will Mbembe's life really be enriched by being able to spend two dollars on special candies in Candy Crush? What about Min Soo-Ah, how will wifi balloons save her from living in a country where hot water doesn't reach above the second floor? How is this not just silicon valley jerking itself off?

    • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @06:11PM (#47242375)
      Uh, people generally get their lives improved by being provided with news, information in general, and means to communicate.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by kruach aum ( 1934852 )

        I don't know about you but news makes my life considerably worse than it would be without it, as news is not so much "news" as it is "bads"

        • I don't know about you but news makes my life considerably worse than it would be without it, as news is not so much "news" as it is "bads"

          Yeah, things like weather, traffic, political information, pricing information for goods and services, job information, all that does nothing but make people miserable.

          You just have no idea how much access to information enriches your life. I dare you to live a year without any access to any news or information source.

      • Citation needed.

        • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @06:33PM (#47242477)
          The printing revolution? Or the African farmers who say that now with cell phones, they have an easier time trying to find better markets for their produce? Etc.
          • Or the African farmers who say that now with cell phones, they have an easier time trying to find better markets for their produce? Etc.

            I think the above benefit is overrated.
            In practical terms if you have produce to sell, especially perishable items you have to worry about shelf life more than a better price at a market far away from you.
            For non-perishable items - I am from a state which is the largest producer of rubber - even before internet and smartphones the farmers used to get the market prices from newspapers. And you don't need to check the prices more than once a day, you are not playing high frequency trading with your crop.

            • by dave420 ( 699308 )
              You just proved yourself wrong. With better communication, it's easier for farmers to find buyers before their perishable goods perish. It's easier to find help for farming, easier to find distribution networks. It's easier to find information on how to more-effectively farm, how to apply for microfinancing, etc. And that's just farmers. Throw education and healthcare in there, and you might begin to understand how important this is.
              • Read what I wrote...I did not say it was "not useful"...I said the benefits as far as finding better prices for produce is hyped up.
                Of course, better communication is overall better.
            • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
              Thanks for taking the time to document your lack of understanding how the real world works.

              world 1 - brokers set the prices and buy the product, take a large cut of profit.
              world 2 - Farmers are able to see offers from multiple brokers without worrying that one has come and gone, or isn't there yet. brokers take a smaller cut and compete for product.
              • Lets not debate on "real world understanding".
                The scenario you described is from some text book.
                In real life its not usually the above...if there are brokers then they usually collude on price, or fix the price. So any benefit of reaching broker X or broker Y is not there.
                The situation will be better if there are no brokers. But that's not going to happen.
                • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
                  That's my point, you can circumvent the collusion of local market by having access to other market via your cell phone.
                  • In real life scenario, your produce reaching "another market in another city/town" is remote and you making a profit from all that effort is even more remote.
                    This is why I said you are spouting nonsense from some text book which makes sense in some make belief world.
        • How about you disconnect and then let us know if it's made your life better or worse?

          Oh wait, you couldn't.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Uh, people generally get their lives improved by being provided with news, information in general, and means to communicate.

        The great news about these low, low prices!

      • Uh, people generally get their lives improved by being provided with food, shelter in general, and means to make a living.


        But I guess internet access is more important.

    • by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @06:40PM (#47242517)

      What about Min Soo-Ah, how will wifi balloons save her from living in a country where hot water doesn't reach above the second floor?

      That ain't such a big problem, if you don't have cold winters. You should name basic santitation or access to clean water first. We would have achieved a lot when there were a toilet and a tap for clean (hot or cold) water in every house in the world.

    • Will Mbembe's life really be enriched by being able to spend two dollars on special candies in Candy Crush?

      Well, if he has fun, yes.

      But more seriously, I have heard news reports (I think on Planet Money podcasts, but I may be wrong about the source) of many small time farmers in various areas of the world using technology -- just finding info about farming techniques and many other seemingly small things -- and greatly increasing their productivity. Having internet access increases their communication, so

    • It's sort of funny that you have very nearly the sum total of human knowledge at your fingertips, the ability to communicate with people over thousands of miles (or hundreds, or dozens) instantly, and all the news about every place in the world you could possibly want to hear about... And the first thing you think about someone else doing with that ability is "play Candy Crush." Yes, it really does matter.
  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @06:10PM (#47242365)
    So, it's like the Internet, but in the sky? Let's call it SkyNet!
  • "Affordable"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @06:25PM (#47242437) Homepage

    So what is "Affordable" supposed to mean for subsistence farmers?
    What does affordable mean to somewho who cannot even conceive of the concept of money, for someone not even able to conceive of the concept of numbers?

    Affordable is not a word that even makes sense to use in the same sentence as 2/3 of the 2/3s.

    • Re:"Affordable"? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by queazocotal ( 915608 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @07:54PM (#47242797)

      You really have no clue.
      In much of the 'third world' - phones - dumbphones are revolutionizing banking, and doing things to enable farmers to get higher prices for stuff at market, as well as microinvestment. []
      Firefox are launching a $25 phone. Is it a good nice internet access device - no.
      But it will render wikipedia (for example) and let someone track weather forecasts, and do email and essentially everything the internet was when you had a 9600 modem.
      (neglecting for the moment that it won't be able to connect to the above satellites - but in several years it's plausible for the same price).
      $25 is a lot of money for someone earning a dollar a day.
      But, it is much less expensive than the cost of schooling for a year for a child.

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )

      1. The people have a concept of money.
      2. Subsistence farmers, with improved access to farming knowledge, and the ability to find workers for their land, second-hand equipment, microfinancing, etc. don't stay subsistence farming for long

      Many places in Africa, for example, already use mobile phones for communication, and have seen lots of progress through their use. Adding internet to their communication channels will only increase that progress even more.

      This is honestly a good thing, even if the cynics o

  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @06:54PM (#47242577)

    You know, countries where affordable internet access is not available?

    Examples: USA, Canada.

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Canada has perfectly affordable internet, you simply refuse to do any business with Rogers, Telus, Cogeco, Videotron, Bell etc and go with a TPIA(like Start, Teksavvy, Electronicbox, Execulink, etc), and get more for less.

  • First things first (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @07:42PM (#47242755)

    You might want to take a look at this [] (safe for work and all, don't worry, it's just a map of the night earth).

    And then you might ponder whether giving these people internet is going to do them much good.

    Hint: Sending a fridge into the middle of the desert doesn't allow the people there to refrigerate their goods. You know why? Same reason why internet won't work!

    • Agreed. If you're worried about getting internet to people who don't have clean water, or are worried about the local militia rounding them up, you've got your priorities wrong.

      • These people already have or are getting cell phones. A chinese cell tower is vastly cheaper than a wastewater treatment plant, a road or a war.

      • by dave420 ( 699308 )
        They can use this to find or organise clean water, by finding people in suitable areas to pool resources. They can also let the authorities know if any militia are rounding people up, so they can get help. This has already been demonstrated time and time again.
    • by Imrik ( 148191 )

      If you're going to take the trouble to feed internet to the middle of nowhere, you're also going to bring a few solar panels so people can use it.

      • Solar panels? Lovely! We could use them to power the water pump so we have clean water! And it would probably be strong enough to power our makeshift welder so we can fix that car we got (you know, the one that you threw away 'cause it didn't make it through the DMV requirements anymore, but it still drives, that's what matters here!). And we could...

        Say, any chance we could have more of those panels? You can keep that interthing if we can have more solar panels instead.

        • You need a lot fewer solar panels to power an internet-enabled device than you do to power a welder, or even a well. Incidentally, most of the world doesn't worry about DMV regulations. Places that don't have a well for water very often don't. They might worry about gasoline, but it's just as likely that neither thought will even occur to them. On the other hand, the internet contains a lot of useful information, which is often in even shorter supply than water in places like that. It is, after all, a lot m
          • What they need to know, they do. Information circles freely there, they also don't care too much about DRM or copyright, you see. Or patents for that matter. They have real problems, they don't have the need to create artificial ones.

            So, you gonna deliver those panels now or not?

            • by dave420 ( 699308 )
              They also use hand-powered generators for small things like charging mobile phones. Easy access to the rest of the world and the information held within only serves to allow scarce resources to be shared among those who need them, as has already been demonstrated by the areas which got mobile phone access. This will only improve with internet access.
  • With as much money as they've got? Probably. At this point, they just sort of make money off of people being on the internet without having to do much else, so they've got every reason to. Hells, they may just up and decide to give everyone on the planet the equivalent of 56k for free with equipment, or something like that.
    • What would they do with the internet once they got it?
      • by dave420 ( 699308 )
        Find people to trade with, get access to healthcare, find workers/employers, talk with charities, get/provide microfinancing, etc. This has been demonstrated time and time again - it's not a mystery.
  • Culture Shock (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Scottingham ( 2036128 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @09:52PM (#47243229)
    Nobody has brought up an obvious (to me I guess) consideration.

    How would 'other 2/3' perceive the internet / computers in general in their cultural context.

    Imagine a refugee camp where war torn peoples flock across a border and are placed into a predesignated area. Now (if it was Turkey*) they'd have all the basic amenities, food, shelter, water, What they are lacking (as far as I can tell) is any pervasive computer/internet. Consequently, boredom is one of the biggest problems in these refugee camps.

    What if they all had the internet though?

    What would they do with something of that magnitude that they've never had before? Would it become self-organizing? Would they require classes? If so, how in-depth? What if the literacy rates were low? Could small pictographic games still provide entertainment? Could MMOs (or whatever) provide a sense of purpose, if only virtual, to somebody's life?

    Now take that microcosm and multiply it by 'the other 2/3'.

    We need to approach this as a legitimate problem that is capable of being solved through research and refinement.

    * []
  • Of course they'll succeed with this critical mission. After all, the first thought a starving child has when they wake up with no food, parents with no jobs, and wondering if they'll eat today, all that matters nought. Their first thought is "I wish I had high speed internet."

    The fact that the first thing these people would do is trade a free smartphone for food is also irrelevent.

    After all, we're out to save the world through cat videos and LOLs. Screw rational thought.

  • I wonder if the 2/3 Google is considering are with internet technology or the kinda of people who don't even have access to a pc? Considering the many rural areas in India, where people are significantly technologically backwards.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's just a commercial to mark Google as the "innovative" company. It won't sell (much), as won't the project Ara phones but it's a nice public advertisement to show Google's potential.

  • by Moskit ( 32486 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @03:13AM (#47244107)

    Reason Google is behind this drive is that it will allow them (and NSA) to reach more consumers.

    Similar to how USA and other countries' corporations were happy to make Iron Curtain fail - not exactly for political/goodwill reasons, but to reach more consumers.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Where do you find these 2/3 that is not connected?

    Some you find in countries that are connected in general, with other words those not connected do not want to be.

    I guess you meen that you find the rest in 3rd world countries, but, I guess you havent realized that they skipped the 'sitting athome at a monitor' they went directly to mobilphones, with access to the net. The phone market in Africa is booooooming, there is small sellers everywhere.

    The world has moved on, not everything is where it was 20 years

  • Google may or may not accomplish this goal, but the real question is, how long after that will it be before Comcast does a hostile takeover of Google and fuck it all up for everybody?

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake