That old Internet chestnut, "the information superhighway" could get a lot more antiquated with news that the Federal Communications Commission has given Space X company thumbs-up approval to deliver broadband services from outer space.
The Thursday announcement will increase competition for broadband delivery from low-Earth orbit via satellite, according to the FCC. The approval also marks the first time an American-made spacecraft manufacturer will deliver such services in space. So far, it's approved proposals made by Telesat, Space Norway, and OneWeb to perform similar functions.
The company will be far more ambitious in distributing these signals than the galaxy satellite fleet that television providers like DirecTV use to deliver channels to its terrestrial customer base. Space X plans to use more than 4,000 satellites for beaming broadband services to the surface. So far, the project dubbed Starlink, has tested two satellites for broadband.
The bureaucratic green light is one less obstacle for Space X CEO Elon Musk to continue his plan of rebuilding the way the internet is delivered. One benefit of Starlink, once completed, is that broadband speed via satellite will be much faster than methods currently used.
It will also be a boon to some 14 million rural residents, and additional 1.2 citizens in tribal territories in America, who don't have access to any mobile broadband regardless of speed. But the FCC cautioned that an additional 4,000 satellites in space, as well as the rocket boosters being used to position them in orbit, would add to the gradual accumulation of space junk already circling the planet and precautions must be taken to mitigate that waste.
The news comes on the eve of another Space X launch slated to take place at Cape Canaveral in Florida on Tuesday, when a Falcon 9 rocket will deliver a communications satellite into space. There was no confirmation on whether that satellite would be part of the proposed Starlink array.
Musk is pinning a lot of hopes into the Starlink project, which will create his version of a new global communications system. He also remarked back in 2015 that such a system might be lucrative enough for Space X to fund a future colony on Mars.