The charity group A Human Right said it was planning to purchase a satellite that would provide free basic Internet access to developing countries around the world.
The group, which was founded by 25-year-old Kosta Grammatis, is currently raising money to buy the TerreStar-1, the largest commercial communications satellite ever built. TerreStar, the company that owns the satellite, filed for chapter-11 bankruptcy protection in October 2010, opening the possibility that the satellite may be up for sale.
The group hopes to raise $150,000 to finalize a business plan, investigate the legal and business aspects of submitting a bid for the satellite, and hire engineers to turn the plan into a reality. After this initial phase, the group plans to develop an open source low cost modem that could be used to connect to the satellite and finalize plans with partner governments.
“We believe that Internet access is a tool that allows people to help themselves – a tool so vital that it should be considered a universal human right,” the website for Buy This Satellite stated. “Imagine your digital life disconnected. Without access to the 100 million man-hours that have been put into Wikipedia, how much do you actually know?”
Nearly 5 billion out of the world’s 6.9 billion people don’t have access to the Internet.
A Human Right plans to finance their satellite by allowing telecommunication companies to purchase bandwidth, while providing basic service for free to everyone. “Our goal is to not only get everyone online, but also facilitate the growth of an industry,” their website said.
The group has already managed to raise $44,781.
“The idea for global connectivity was born in Berlin, Germany in an innovation ‘Do-Tank’ called Palomar 5,” according to the group. “Thirty people under the age of thirty came together to innovate on what the future might look like, and how to address some of the worlds problems.”
“In Egypt we’ve watched as the government, in an unprecedented way, shutoff Internet access for the entire country,” Grammatis told TIME. “We’re building a system that can’t be shutoff–it’s as decentralized as possible. You could jam the signal somewhat, but to do that at the scale of a country is a very very difficult task.”
“Big ideas, that can improve our society as a whole, are worth doing, and this one will be done,” he added. “It’s the logical next step in communications: a network available to anyone everywhere for minimal cost.”
Similarly, President Obama announced Thursday his plan to get 98 percent of the United States connected to the Internet in five years.