Broadband internet satellites are set to sweep the skies over the next decade at a scale never before seen. Just don’t ask policymakers today how exactly we’re going to manage the fallout. The story is a familiar one to longtime watchers of technology. Companies hooked up homes with electricity, with phone lines, TV signals and the internet — miracles of modern connectivity — but not without communities inheriting a cityscape loaded with hanging wires and accompanying fire hazards.
Shannon Thomas Carroll, head of global environmental sustainability for AT&T, knows how difficult it is to find reliable climate data. When sustainability officials at the telecommunications giant began searching for local-level data on climate impacts as part of the company’s efforts to shore up its infrastructure in response to climate change, they had a lot of trouble finding usable information.
The United States, European Union and other NATO countries have donated billions of dollars in military equipment to Ukraine since the war began in late February. But Elon Musk’s Starlink—based on a cluster of table-sized satellites flying as low as 130 miles above Ukraine and beaming down high-speed internet access—has become an unexpected lifeline to the country: both on the battlefield and in the war for public opinion. Ukrainian drones have relied on Starlink to drop bombs on Russian forward positions.
The race to build 6G is on—or, at least, the race to start selling the idea to Washington.