Outernet

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For other uses, see Outernet (disambiguation).

Outernet Inc is a global broadcast data startup currently being incubated by the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF), a United States-based impact investment fund and non-profit organization established in 1995 by Saša Vučinić and Stuart Auerbach. Outernet's goal is to provide free access to content from the web through geostationary and Low Earth Orbit satellites, made available effectively to all parts of the world.

The project uses datacasting and User Datagram Protocol through both small satellites, such as CubeSats, and larger, more conventional geostationary communications satellites. Wi-Fi enabled devices would communicate with the satellite hotspots, which receive data broadcasts from satellites.[1][2]

Outernet turned on their first public satellite signal on August 11, 2014.[3] The signal delivers 200 MB per day to receivers that users are required to build. Outernet provides instructions for users to build their own receivers and encourages people to do so and to share their results with Outernet. This first signal, which Outernet describes as a "test signal,"[3] is being broadcast over Galaxy 19 and Hot Bird, covering North America, Europe, and parts of the Middle East and North Africa. The network is primarily focused on a one-way data service, with two-way traffic being a long-term goal of the company.

On October 1, 2014, Outernet released a major update accompanied by a video featuring burning books in an abandoned Detroit automotive factory. The update included a redesign of the Outernet website and the release of Whiteboard, their content suggestion platform that allows anyone to suggest a URL for broadcast. Once a URL is submitted, other visitors may vote on it with the URLs receiving the most votes entering the Outernet broadcast carousel.[4] The Outernet broadcast is broken into three categories: the Queue, Sponsored Content, and the Core Archive.[5] Content in the Queue is decided via votes on Whiteboard as well as requests via the Outernet Facebook page. Outernet plans to expand the avenues through which it is able to receive requests for content. Anyone can view what is being broadcast on Outernet at any time.[6]

According to MDIF, the initial content access includes international and local news, crop prices for farmers, Teachers Without Borders, emergency communications such as disaster relief, applications and content such as Ubuntu, movies, music, games, and Wikipedia in its entirety.[7]

Requests to NASA to use the International Space Station to test their technology were denied in June 2014 due to, as stated by a letter sent by CASIS to the staff working for Outernet, both inaccuracies within the proposition, such as "it is assumed that the NanoLab housing will be provided by the CASIS program outside the budget", and costs, ranging from $150K($150,000) to $175K($175,000). This resulted in the CASIS operations review stating in the letter that "the likelihood for mission success as proposed is not probable."[8]

Receiving Data[edit]

A device called the "Pillar", a data receiver and media storage system, is being designed and developed by Outernet that will be a "completely self-contained, high-speed receiver" that is "solar-powered, weatherproof, and creates a wireless hotspot to allow WiFi-enabled devices to access content." [9] The purpose of the Pillar, as stated by Outernet, is to provide free access to the media archive, through Outernet, in high traffic public locations, such as schools. [10]

The mobile receiver is also under development by Outernet. There is currently no active signal for Outernet's mobile service, but Outernet expects that it will begin signal testing in late 2014.[9]

However, another way to access the transmissions sent by Outernet is to build a receiver, which requires certain components, including a Raspberry Pi, satellite dish, LNB(Low Noise Block), and USB satellite tuner. When set up, the satellite dish receives the information broadcast by Outernet, which then is sent to the Raspberry Pi through the USB satellite tuner. The data received is stored on the Raspberry Pi, which then can be accessed when a Wi-Fi dongle is connected to the Raspberry Pi and setup correctly. Currently, this method only works with specific components when dealing with the USB satellite tuner and USB Wi-Fi dongles.[11]

Availability[edit]

The Outernet is, at the moment, limited to certain regions of the world. However, they are raising funds to expand where the Outernet is accessible. The amount of funds they will need to do so is $100,000. As of 15 October, 2014, there has been 17 backers and a total of $6,790 donated to Outernet.[12]

Purpose[edit]

Outernet has stated three specific goals when developing the Outernet: to provide information without censorship for educational and emergency purposes. They have stated that they plan to provide information about "news, civic information, commodity prices, weather, construction plans for open source farm machinery" and other types of information. They also have stated that they will be providing access to "courseware," which includes textbooks, videos, and software. Outernet will be available also when access to regular Internet connection is down for any reason.[7]

Media Coverage[edit]

Media coverage over the Outernet has ranged from excitement to skepticism. A CNN video released on February 24, 2014 goes into detail of how the idea seems great, but has many fall backs due to costs and the feasibility of the project. Other media outlets that have brought up the Outernet include The Washington Post and NBC. [7] Media coverage has also gone into other competing projects that have surfaced, such as Google's Project Loon and Facebook's Internet.org.[13]

There has also been debate over the politics involved in the introduction of the Outernet to the public. Many fears exist over whether "the major telecom companies worldwide will fight the plans for space-based broadcasting of information readily available on the Internet."[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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