Elon Musk’s Starlink Creates Havoc In Brazil’s Amazon While India Denied Permission: For Good Or Worse?
Elon Musk probably launched SpaceX's satellite internet service - Starlink, with the intention of connecting people and businesses worldwide, particularly in remote corners of the earth, but little did he know that this service would become the favourite for assisting illegal mining efforts in the most sensitive ecological forests in the world - Brazil's Amazon forests. On the other hand, India denied permission to Starlink in 2022; while it may have turned out to be in India's favour, for now, but what is the real reason behind SpaceX's satellite internet division denial in the country?
Elon Musk’s Starlink high-speed internet system has been a boon for many rural areas in Brazil, providing much-needed access to the internet and educational resources. However, it appears that illegal miners in the country are also using this technology to its full potential.
Starlink is a satellite-based broadband service developed by SpaceX, which provides high-speed internet access to remote locations around the world. The system was initially designed to provide low latency connections with speeds of up to 1 Gbps (gigabits per second). In Brazil, Starlink has been deployed in several rural areas where traditional wired or wireless services are not available.
Unfortunately, it appears that some of these same areas have become havens for illegal mining operations due to their lack of reliable power sources and easy access to cheap electricity from solar panels connected directly to the grid. This means that miners can take advantage of Starlink’s fast connection speeds without having to worry about paying expensive utility bills or dealing with unreliable local infrastructure.
The use of Starlink by illegal miners raises serious concerns about its potential impact on local communities and ecosystems, as well as its implications for global climate change efforts.
A Boon For Illegal Miners
Seven Starlink terminals were found and seized in the last five weeks at illegal mining sites in Yanomami land, Brazil’s largest Indigenous region, according to the Brazilian environment agency Ibama.
However, owing to the fact that this technology is super fast has become just the right opportunity to manage illegal mines, so much so that it was found that one can handle hundreds of mining sites without ever visiting them physically.
Before the introduction of Starlink’s internet service, illegal miners relied on heavy, stationary antennae, but the internet connection was often unreliable, and whenever miners moved sites or ran from a raid often, they would leave the internet equipment behind.
Sadly, the illegal miners are now using Starlink terminals to plan logistics and payments and anticipate law enforcement raids; Brazil first got access to Starlink’s high-speed internet in 2022, and that year, Musk tweeted his excitement about launching Starlink to connect 19,000 schools in Brazil’s rural areas.
Illegal mining activities often involve deforestation and other environmental damage while contributing significantly more carbon emissions than legal operations do. Furthermore, they can lead to increased poverty levels among affected populations due to lost jobs and income opportunities associated with legitimate businesses being driven out by criminal activity.
What is Starlink?
Technically a branch within SpaceX, Starlink is the name of the spaceflight company’s growing network of orbital satellites or “constellations.”
While that network’s development began in 2015, the prototype satellites were launched into orbit in 2018.
In the years since, SpaceX has deployed thousands of Starlink satellites into the constellation across dozens of successful launches, the most recent of which took place on Feb. 17 2023, and delivered another 51 satellites into low-Earth orbit. That brings the total number of satellites in orbit to just under 4,000.
India Denied Starlink
Elon Musk’s Starlink was denied a license in India as it failed to obtain the necessary permissions while simultaneously, it was granted the right to operate in Brazil.
In India, the government ordered Starlink to stop “booking/providing satellite internet service” without a licence in 2021.
Following which, Sanjay Bhargava, Starlink’s India Director, resigned in response to government pressure. Elon Musk’s company also informed some people in the country that their pre-orders would be refunded.
However, the National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) of Brazil approved Musk’s entry, stating that consumers will access satellite-based broadband through companies purchasing capacity from the satellite network or if existing sector players obtain permission to operate.
What Is The Issue With Starlink?
Starlink isn’t without its controversies. For one, scientific community members have raised concerns about the growing impact of Starlink’s low-earth orbit satellites on night sky visibility.
Meanwhile, satellite internet competitors have also seen Starlink’s momentum, prompting regulatory jousting and attempts to slow Musk down. For example, several have laid claims that 5G expansions in the 12GHz band would interfere with its satellite signals.
As Starlink has expanded, reports have emerged about its terminals being used for unintended purposes, including in the war in Ukraine.
Elon Musk had sent 15,000 Starlink kits to Ukraine by June last year, reconnecting parts of the war-torn country where internet service had been lost.
In January, Musk tweeted about how Starlink was not allowed to be used for long-range drone strikes in Ukraine’s war efforts.
SpaceX’s COO Gwynne Shotwell, at a Federal Aviation Administration conference in Washington DC, said that the company was working to limit Ukraine’s use of Starlink in offensive military operations after the country had used Starlink “in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement.”
As Musk’s Starlink service becomes increasingly widespread, cases of misuse are to be expected.
What Is Starlink’s Reach So Far?
Musk claims that Starlink is already operational in 12 countries and is rapidly expanding.
The company has also announced a service upgrade. The internet service provider recently launched the “Starlink Premium” offer, which provides a redesigned and faster internet connection.
According to the company’s website, Starlink premium services offer internet speeds ranging from 150 to 500 Mbps. To put it in context, the standard Starlink service offers internet speeds ranging from 100 to 200 Mbps. With the addition of a larger antenna, the premium service’s latency has been reduced to 20-40ms. The Starlink Premium service is designed to meet the high expectations of users.
This past year, the service spread to all seven continents. By the end of 2022, the number of users skyrocketed to more than one million worldwide — up from 145,000 users at the start of the year.
Conclusion: While Elon Musk’s Starlink project has provided much-needed connectivity solutions for many people living in remote parts of Brazil who would otherwise be unable to get online easily, it must be noted that this technology could potentially be abused if proper measures are not taken soon enough address any negative consequences arising from its misuse by criminals involved in illegal mining activities.
Therefore, all stakeholders must come together quickly to mitigate any risks posed by such practices before they cause further damage to our planet’s fragile environment.
It is important that governments work together with companies like SpaceX in order to ensure that technologies such as Starlink are used responsibly and ethically so they can continue providing benefits without causing harm or disruption elsewhere in society or nature itself.
Additionally, authorities should consider implementing stricter regulations on mining activities within their jurisdictions so as not only to protect citizens but also to preserve natural resources for future generations.