A non-profit company wants to buy the most advanced communications satellite ever launched and use it to provide free internet to the world.
The group organizing the effort calls itself A Human Right, and it believes that the communication and knowledge that the internet provides is, well, a human right. The internet spreads ideas and information faster than the speed of light and brings enlightenment to all it touches, yet only one sixth of the Earth's population has access to it. A Human Right wants to change that, but this is no fly-by-night, hippy-dippy idea - founder Kostas Grammatis has a plan, which he outlined at a TED conference in Greece last December. Grammatis's plan involves the TerreStar-1 satellite, which was launched in July 2009. The company that owns the satellite recently filed for bankruptcy and rather than let the advanced communications array go unused, Grammatis wants to raise money to buy TerreStar-1 and use it provide internet to parts of the world where internet access is severely limited.
The initiative is unimaginatively named Buy This Satellite has three steps. Step one: put a hole in a box. Wait. No.
Step one is to raise $150,000 to get a formal business plan together and organize a bid to buy the satellite. Step two will be the actual proposal to TerreStar and development of an open source modem to receive the internet waves from space. The final step will be to move the satellite to an appropriate orbit and flip on the switch.
There's no word on what the TerreStar-1 satellite will actually end up costing - similar sales of telco satellites have been as high as $23 million. But A Human Right has a lot of star power behind it, including human rights and technology companies, as well as the founders of Earth Day International and XM Radio on the advisory board.
It's an ambitious plan, and A Human Right has set up an attractive website that outlines the plan and offers a simple interface to donate to the cause via PayPal. If you give a paltry $25, you get a pin decrying that you bought a satellite. For $50, you get a clever tee-shirt that says "I bought a satellite and all I got was this stupid teeshirt." Which you have to admit, is pretty dang funny.
Given that almost $50,000 has already been raised, Grammatis's plan may just be crazy enough to work.
Head over to buythissatellite.org if you're interested.