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Virgin’s satellite internet plans are a step in the right direction

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Virgin's satellite internet plans are a step in the right directionThe internet is so tightly woven into everyday life, that’s easy to forget two things. Firstly, it hasn’t actually been available to us for all that long, and secondly that a worrying number of people still don’t have access to it. While millions of people go online every day, too many of them question the importance of getting the rest of the world connected.

It’s easy to forget that the internet is about so much more than Twitter, Facebook and porn — even if this accounts for a large proportion of traffic. Access to the internet is about access to information, access to education, the ability to communicate with the wider world; it is a democratising tool. But to be truly democratising, it has to be made available to more people. Richard Branson, through Virgin, is the latest person to try to make the world a more connected place.

The plan is to create “the world’s largest ever satellite constellation”. Like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg involvement with Internet.org, the desire to bring the internet access to the world is laudable. But getting connected is only part of the story. Internet.org has already made it clear that the aim is to make access affordable.

While Virgin’s plans make no reference to keeping costs down for end users, it is pointed out that the cost of launching satellites has been falling — these are hopefully costs that will be passed on to customers.

It’s great to see that there are plans to make the internet accessible to a larger number of people, but I also have a rather selfish interest. Living in rural Scotland means that fibre-based broadband is not an option, and copper-based internet services are nothing short of rubbish. It’s something I have written about before, and it led me to giving satellite broadband a try.

In terms of speed and reliability, satellite broadband has proved to be a massive improvement on the service delivered over copper wire. But cost is a serious issue. I was, fortunately, able to get the equipment free of charge, but there are still on-going monthly rental costs to consider. While unlimited usage broadband packages are available for around £10 per month when delivered through a phone, the same package skyrockets to £70 via satellite.

While costs have come down, and technology has improved, there’s still a long way to go. Perhaps as big names such as Richard Branson get involved, costs can be further reduced. Competition in any market is always a good thing, and I hope that future satellite launches will help to not only bring internet access to the entire world, but also to make satellite broadband a cheaper and more accessible option for people in rural area where traditional broadband options simply do not cut it.

1 comment

  1. Honey

    “We expect home sales to gain momentum in the second half of the year”I suspect this may be true. But, if it is because people who have to sell finally accept reality and start pricing according to the current market, one should expect to see prices drop even further, nodhwtistanting the increased sales numbers.

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