For decades, satellite communication has been too slow and expensive to roll out on a global scale. But now a new generation of low earth orbit satellites are bringing faster and cheaper internet service to millions of people all over the world.

They’ve been used by researchers in Antarctica and the Ukrainian military. In countries like Iran, these new satellite networks could even help hurdle internet shutdowns and digital censorship.
Censorship in Iran

Protests have been raging in Iran for over six months after Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody. Hundreds of protesters have been killed and tens of thousands have been arrested.

The Iranian government is cracking down hard on the movement and part of their strategy is to control the flow of information using internet shutdowns and censorship – a digital wall that makes it extremely difficult to access foreign websites, social media, and secure messaging apps.

“Almost all messenger apps like Telegram, WhatsApp, all social media like Twitter, Facebook … anything you can think of are blocked,” said Payam, a coder and cryptocurrency miner in Iran. We are only using his first name to protect him from harm.

In 2022, the human rights group Access Now documented 18 internet shutdowns in Iran — nearly all during nationwide protests. These shutdowns and restrictions make it difficult for protesters to organize, or for journalists to expose human rights abuses.

But beyond that, it’s also become an unbearable daily hassle for people just trying to make a living using the internet.

Payam’s sister Azadeh owns her own clothing brand that sources fabrics from remote villages. Ever since COVID-19 started, her business has depended on social media for sales.

“We took pictures of our work and sent them to customers through WhatsApp, Telegram, or posted them on our Instagram page,” she said . “The business was doing well for a while. But unfortunately, with the escalation of internet restrictions, our sales faced a dramatic drop. And it wasn’t just us…”

Other business owners she knows are affected as well. She says the shutdowns and restrictions crushed what had been a revival of traditional Iranian crafts. Without the popular social media platforms, artisans in remote areas are finding it difficult to reach the wider market.

Source » whyy