Elon Musk plans to cover the entire planet with satellite WIFI, making the internet impossible to escape
“Don’t tell anyone, but the wifi password is ‘martians.’”
Elon Musk is building humanity’s future whether we’re ready for it or not.
The engineer/business magnet (as he refers to himself) is hell-bent on sending human beings to colonize Mars, he’s engineered fully electric, self-driving cars and shot them into space for fun, he’s building earthquake-proof tunnels under LA to solve their traffic crisis, and he has established a secretive company called Neuralink, which is devoted to developing computer implants for the human brain.
Now, the fanatic owner and founder of Space X, The Boring Company, Neuralink and Tesla automotive company, wants to provide the entire planet with wireless, world-wide-WIFI with a constellation of satellites he’s launching into space.
And if it works, no one will ever want for WIFI ever again — no one will ever be able to truly “go off the grid” ever again.
On February 22nd of 2018 the first of these satellites, a pair of prototypes named “Tintin A” and “Tintin B” were launched into Earth’s orbit. They are the first-gen models of Space X’s “Starlink” initiative, which aims to supply broadband internet connections to the people of Earth — even those living in remote areas, those flying in airplanes or those sailing in ships at sea.
“Don’t tell anyone, but the wifi password is ‘martians’,” Musk joked in a tweet, as the Tintin twins made their first Earth orbits.
It’s a bold project, no doubt. One that would change the world and the way we interact with our surroundings. No more would you have to be in a coffee shop, school, library or business to get online — you could do it literally anywhere.
In fact, it would probably become frustratingly difficult to escape your internet connection. Want a weekend away from social media and email? Need a few days “off the grid” to refresh and rejuvenate? That won’t be so easy once Starlink is up and running.
Space X has yet to announce when this futuristic amenity might come online. But Tintin A and Tintin B are just a drop in the proverbial space-bucket. They are the first of roughly 4,425 Starlink satellites that the company plans on sending into orbit. And even that is just the beginning: a later phase of operation Starlink calls for an additional 7,500 satellites, making for a total of 10,000 Space X Starlink Tintin’s zapping around this planet like electrons around the nucleus of an atom.
That may still be a very long way off. But to get this system operational, Space X says they’ll only need about 800 of those satellites in orbit, which should only take a few years (the first wave being launched this year, 2019).
Of course, this isn’t a new idea by any means — satellite telephones and satellite internet services already exist. They use geostationary satellites in orbit high above the Earth’s equator, which are very costly to build, launch and maintain.
Space X’s army of Tintin’s by comparison would be much cheaper, flying low to the Earth and moving extremely fast. It would be a decisive update to the current technology and would make WIFI a truly world-wide resource.
Space X, however, is not alone in this goal. Alphabet (the company that owns Google) is currently experimenting with high altitude WIFI balloons, in a project called “Project Loon” which is already providing wireless internet to the entire island of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Boeing, Facebook, Astranis Space Technologies and satellite companies Viasat and Telesa are also throwing their hats into the ring for space-WIFI.
Even in orbit, miles above the Earth’s surface, Space X will have business competition to deal with.
Should Space X’s Starlink initiative prove successful, it will put an end to true isolation on this planet. No matter how deep into the wilderness or how far out on the ocean one goes, internet access will still be available, people will still be able to send work emails, respond to Facebook messages, update their Snapchat story, check Reddit and send nudes.
To some people that may sound like an incredible feat of modern engineering that can’t come soon enough.
To others, though, it sounds like a death knell for the concept of “wildness.” Starlink (or any of these other corporate variations) could very well turn our once untamed, wild lands into sprawling internet café’s. There will be no escaping the web, then. And, for that matter, there will be no escaping the Internet crowd — the Instagram influencers, the snap-happy-chatters, the screen fiends who only ever seek adventure so they can post it or share it online. When Musk’s world-wide WIFI network is in place, what’s stopping that lot from spilling out of cell-service range and filling the sacred empty places of our wildernesses?
Whether that frightens you or excites you is irrelevant: wireless world-wide WIFI is coming. And there’s nowhere to hide from it. It could be Musk, it could be Zuckerberg, or it could be whoever the fuck runs Alphabet and those other companies, but someone is going to cover this planet with satellite provided internet access — for good or ill.
So enjoy your ability to disconnect while you've still got it.