BuyThisSatellite: $150K crowdfunding project to provide net access to poor countries with a bankrupt hi-cap comsat

A new NGO called A Human Right is attempting to raise $150K in a bid to buy one of the world's highest capacity communications satellites from its bankrupt owners in order to re-task it to supply Internet access to the world's poorest people. They plan on building their own super-cheap satellite modems as well.

Unlike most crowdfunding projects, they've put up bios of their team and advisors (I pass on nearly every Kickstarter project I get sent because the creators don't detail any successful project they've done before), which includes telcoms veterans, accomplished technologists, and aerospace experts. They also claim support from organizations as diverse as NASA, Fon, and Deutsche Telekom Labs.

Although we believe in free Internet for the planet, there are some realities to face: like paying the rent.

We will offer a diminished service for free to everyone, while allowing telecommunications companies to purchase and re-sell high speed bandwidth. Our goal is to not only get everyone online, but also facilitate the growth of an industry.

As the CTO of Deutsche Telekom Thomas Curran advised us: "You're evangelizing for access, expanding it. That can only help the industry." And helping industry helps developing countries grow.

Buy This Satellite (via Futurismic)


  1. I like the idea but Im a bit confused if its one of the worlds highest capacity satellites it would worth millions right? would 150k even be a suitable down-payment?
    I know nothing Im just asking.

    1. From their website…
      “PHASE 1
      Our goal is to raise $150,000 USD to do the following:
      1. Finalize a business plan for large scale funders.
      2. Process the legal and business aspects of submitting a bid for the satellite.
      3. Hire several full-time engineers to make our calculations and planning into a concrete reality.”

      The site goes on the detail phase two and three which it seems would be financed by investors, businesses, governments, partners and foundations. So there are the Billionaires everyone is talking about. The crowed sourcing is just to get the idea of the ground, other money will have to come to the table to give it momentum.

  2. Where the fuck are the billionaires? The Buffets, the Gateses, the Zuckerbergs that can shit 150k painlessly? It’s the cost of a Maseratti or half an Aston Martin for cthulhu’s sake! And i am not being sarcastic or anything. But times like this is when we need a Kanye or a Bono to just write a check (in silence hopefully) and put his/her money where his/her mouth is.


    1. juepecta,

      I would imagine the billionares are in their office doing what they do as billionares: a) look for opportunities to make more money, or b) do some great social good in which they believe.

      The first path is pretty straightforward– if these satellite people want the money, they just need to write a believable business case about how the exanpded access for 3rd world countries will bring long-term revenues through expanded internet subscriptions, developed markets, etc.

      The second path involves a lot of photos of starving children or puppies with big sad eyes.

      The first path is much easier. Rather than beg money ‘crowdfunding’, I would suggest they starting on that outline and get a-writin’.

  3. This project is so damn cool it makes me want to grab myself and run around the room like a three year old that can’t decide if they want to pee or open their birthday presents first. It brings the geek dystopian hobo dream of a bicycle, a tent, some food and prep stuff, a water filter, a netbook, and the satellite modem/antenna to reality if it can just be funded. A fully mobile life out of your pack even if nobody is hiring.

    I already doink around with ham radio sats with DIY gear, but the current birds are all LEO so that means ten minute passes at best a few times a day, and not very useful other than trading callsigns or making a SOS call. AO-51 and the ISS do AX.25 digital mode up to 9600 baud rarely and Eagle once it goes up is supposed to do have a C-band 100mb/s router mode for data but it is years behind schedule and wouldn’t likely be in that mode often or ever be allowed to route Internet even for licensed hams.

    I hope the project gets funded and I end up in the footprint of this. I also hope the modem is actually cheap and highly portable or easy to DIY.

      1. I have kids, the pee/present conundrum is the top observed level of excitement. Of course that question all to often ends up in a puddle right next to the toilet.
        Quote away!

  4. This is indeed a great idea, but what the fuck, Cory? Crowdfunding? Seriously? I give the odd buzzword on here a free pass, but I’m pretty sure it’s been called charity for a while now. No need to go changing things.

  5. The $150k isn’t to buy the satellite. It’s to hire lawyers to contact corporations and billionaires to buy the sat and donate it to them.

  6. I’d love to give these guys some money, but without a biz plan and a bit more engineering detail this is a total pig in a poke. They’re raising $150k to set up an exploratory committee, which might well find out that the whole endeavour is financially, technically or politically impossible.
    They need to detail a business plan that gets them from here to some sort of self sustaining position (whether that’s through retail sales, donations or whatever) before I could take them seriously. Otherwise, it’s just $20 of mine down the drain for these guys to do some basic research on their business plan

  7. Just bought a $51 Tshirt!
    Hopefully this donation will get Internet access to kids somewhere, sometime. So they can have access to information and expand their horizons, & obviously trawl the tubes for porn.

    Everyone donate a few $, forgo the latte for the day and send that $ to these guys so the kids can waste time on boingboing like all of us

  8. This is a charming idea. When I cancel Comcast perhaps I’ll send the money I save to these folks.

  9. As cool as this plan is there is probably plenty of bidders for a super high bandwidth already in geostationary orbit satellite so sensitive that it can be used with handset sized transceivers. It still makes me almost ill with giddiness just imagining the coolness of such a thing.

  10. No joke, if you could actually buy the satellite for $150k, I would be asking if there was another one I could bid on without the risk of taking it from this group. But no, I believe the satellite will cost millions upon millions of dollars. Sigh, there goes my dream of being a satellite magnate.

  11. That’s one of the best ideas I’ve read in the last 10 years. It could not only give access to poor countries, they also should let people contribute paying for a service of internet access respecting what should be Net Neutrality. Believe it or not, they could save us, of our Govs. serving the Mega-corporations, they don’t care about our freedom, they want our money and making us their slaves.
    Open-Source Satellites and Respect of our Freedom of Access to the Internet, without the Censorship of Govs. and Mega-Corps. Yes that’s what we need, maybe our future civilization depends on it, if we don’t want to live in a Cyberpunk World ruled by Mega-Corps.

  12. it’s a really great idea but it’s pathetic world we live in where a rich soul can just plunk that amount….

      1. Only if you live in the cities. The few major telecom companies basically dictate access price.

        We’re still fighting for broadband access in the rural areas. Mobile services are still expensive compared to State side.

    1. Really? I live in rural Vancouver Island, hardly a bustling metropolis, and get pretty damn good net. A whole $20/month gets me sorted for 15mbps etc. Is that 3rd world these days?

      1. Wow, that’s very good speed, I am a middle class physician, living in Panama (third world country), we pay $20 dollars for 3 Mbps WiFi, now what do you think?

  13. “Super cheap sat. modems” Like the $100 laptop? Awesome idea but I can’t help but be a bit skeptical; seems like a lot of “ifs.”

  14. It’s a $150k to help DEVELOP the project in order to obtain the real funding for this. The plan itself will wind up far beyond $150k.

  15. I work in the Satellite biz, design these thing. I can tell you this is just a waste of money. A way to get some consultant rich doing analysis or to drum up publicity to get more money for the satellite.

    The cost of TerreStar-1 is in orbital slot directly above the continental USA with antennas designed specifically for use in the continental USA. Just by moving it to a different orbital slot, doesn’t mean that it’ll work for Africa.

    There is the huddle of getting those same radio frequency cleared for use in the continental Africa, months and years???

    There is the huddle of getting the orbital slot above continental Africa, it’ll take months and years??? and there is no way a bankruptcy court would drag this out for that long.

    Is there enough fuel on the T-1 to go to the new slot and mange to have a meaningful usage life?

    Would the specific tuned antenna dish work on Africa?

    Ground station, and user terminal equipment requirement? engineering and distribution of these equipment? Geez…. with that much engineering, Might as well build a new sat.

    Why don’t these fools just rent some transponders on existing satellites? or better yet I can think of a hundred things more important than the internet that one can give to the 3rd world. clean water, a nutritious meal, a vaccine, a roof, a text book, a school, a job, an uncorrupted government, and the right to vote….

    There is no way they’ll be able to own the satellite. The 150K would just goes to waste and fills the pocket of those NGO officers, it’ll take for more than a tens and hundreds of millions than that to own and operate a satellite. A satellites
    pulls in tens of millions in profit each year, and the Geo Sat building biz is red hot right now, so there will be other buyers out there that can definitely outbid them.

    Calling internet access an “human right” would only dilute those basic principles behind those words.

    1. i’ve been following the terrestar story for a couple of years, and although i do not have the proper education and background, based on the hurdles overcome just to get the company to this stage (fully operational but now in bk proceedings), it is apparent that your points are very real and make this venture into some sort of money grab pipe dream. the website now boasts $61k in donations from about 1100 people. i think those donors just lost their money and that it will just go to those who set up the website. in less than 45 days, terrestar will be closed to auction. anyone who invested in it is sweating bullets and hoping the spectrum crunch will draw some big corporate dollars. concurrently, our government is also talking about budgeting the buildout of a nationwide emergency response communication system that will cost in the multiples of tens of billions of dollars, yet here is a company in the throes of ch. 11 with an auction bid deadline set in early june 2011 that has a fully functional system in place licensed to cover every square inch of north america with a virtually uninterruptible data stream, and that will cost less than 1/10th of the estimated buildout. for my thinking, the guys behind this fundraiser should use this money to lobby the u.s. government to buy terrestar, then have them auction the spectrum with a bit of the reclaimed money from the spectrum to go towards the pipe dream. it cost 1/2 a billion just to get that satellite deployed, it would be such a waste to not use it for its intended purpose (initially it was being marketed primarily towards first responders).

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