Belarusians are petitioning Elon Musk’s SpaceX for a test Starlink satellite system in their country after CEO tweeted to provide understanding and support.
The loss of the internet coincides with the fourth day of protests across Belarus, following Sunday’s controversial presidential election that saw Aleksandr Lukashenko re-elected for a sixth term.
Musk’s tweet was in response to an initiative highlighting the plight of Belarusians, posted along with a video of police brutality against protesters. “Sorry to hear this,”; Musk replied. Can we help? “
His response was greeted by numerous requests to deploy Starlink – a constellation of more than 500 satellites that promises Internet access from almost anywhere on earth. The great constellation is about to begin Beta testers later this summer.
A recommendation about change.org, asking Musk to choose Belarus as the constellation’s first test case that is nearing its target of 7,500 votes. However, SpaceX still has to reveal the location specifics for the first test round.
The centralized internet of Belarus
Belarus presented a strong case as a test site for Starlink. Its Internet loss incident is widely assumed government imposed. Experts have warned that centralized infrastructure (as in the case of Belarus) makes shutting down the Internet much easier – a measure already in place in India, Pakistan, Turkey and other countries. family at a time of civil unrest.
But Lukashenko refused responsibility, blaming the incident due to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks from abroad without giving evidence.
Power outages mean that the only ways for Belarusians to access the Internet are through standard satellite links or with tailor-made connections through neighboring countries using mobile services. and WiFi.
The Tor privacy browser and the Canadian proxy service Psiphon have both seen it the increase in activity recently from Belarus, when people use alternative methods to access accurate news and information.
But overcoming the restrictions requires technological skills that most Belarusians do not have, and satellite services are currently very expensive.
In contrast, the constellation Starlink was designed as one cheap internet service, for areas with poor connectivity. Musk’s bold goal is to bridge the digital divide.
The Belarusian is currently desperate to know if he can narrow the political divide, and he might have some leverage.
Earlier this year Belarus State Ministry invited Elon Musk to test his newly announced self-propelled taxi service in Belarus. He has yet to respond to the request.
Lukashenko also spoke that he was given a Tesla by Musk – a claim the savvy entrepreneur has denied.