Elon Musk wants to use satellites to bring broadband to the masses


When Elon Musk’s SpaceX heaved two communications satellites aloft last week, he joined a space race that’s foiled plenty of other dreamers.

Billions of dollars have vanished in the quest to provide internet service from low-earth orbit. Globalstar Inc. and Iridium Communications Inc. crashed into bankruptcy but are still at it, while another effort folded despite backing from Bill Gates, Boeing Co. and others.

But the failure of others has never stopped Musk. Especially where space is concerned.

Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., Greg Wyler’s OneWeb, Boeing, and Canada’s Telesat are among the companies that have asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to offer broadband service using satellites.

This is a race. And I believe someone in this pack might ultimately succeed.

And if that does happen, will it lower the cost of internet access? Will it provide broadband everywhere, an alternative to cell carriers? Will cord-cutting become more practical?

How does the FCC feel about all this?

SpaceX’s plan calls for 4,425 satellites but it has also applied for another 7,518. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has given his backing to the proposal, making it likely to win the agency’s clearance to provide broadband via low-earth orbit.