By B.N. Frank
High-speed broadband can be achieved more safely and securely with hardwired internet connections rather than via broadband satellites or other wireless infrastructure. Nevertheless, despite lackluster reviews, opposition and super-scary warnings – even from satellite companies themselves (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12) – the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continues to approve the launching of tens of thousands of satellites for broadband. Sometimes the FCC is even funding this! We can only hope a newly published report will stop at least some of this insanity.
New U.S. Government Accountability Report Concludes That Satellites Could Have Serious “Disruptive” Environmental Impacts
GAO REPORT: Large Constellations of Satellites: Mitigating Environmental and Other Effects
A landmark new U.S. Government Accountability Office report documents the potential environmental impacts of satellites and ways to mitigate the effects.
“For decades, satellites have been used for GPS, communications, and remote sensing. The number of satellites has recently increased, as thousands more have been launched to provide internet access. But this increase may be disruptive. For example, it could lead to more space debris, which can damage existing satellites used for commerce or national security. We reviewed technologies and other tools to lessen potential effects. We also looked at mitigation challenges, like unclear rules and immature technology. To help address the challenges, we developed policy options, which may help policymakers achieve a variety of goals.”
“GAO assessed technologies and approaches to evaluate and mitigate the following potential effects:
- Increase in orbital debris. Debris in space can damage or destroy satellites, affecting commercial services, scientific observation, and national security. Better characterizing debris, increasing adherence to operational guidelines, and removing debris are among the possible mitigations, but achieving these is challenging.
- Emissions into the upper atmosphere. Rocket launches and satellite reentries produce particles and gases that can affect atmospheric temperatures and deplete the ozone layer. Limiting use of rocket engines that produce certain harmful emissions could mitigate the effects. However, the size and significance of these effects are poorly understood due to a lack of observational data, and it is not yet clear if mitigation is warranted.
- Disruption of astronomy. Satellites can reflect sunlight and transmit radio signals that obstruct observations of natural phenomena. Satellite operators and astronomers are beginning to explore ways of mitigating these effects with technologies to darken satellites, and with tools to help astronomers avoid or filter out light reflections or radio transmissions. However, the efficacy of these techniques remains in question, and astronomers need more data about the satellites to improve mitigations.
GAO Report: Large Constellations of Satellites: Mitigating Environmental and Other Effects
- Link to Highlights of GAO Report
- Link to GAO Report Video
- Link to GAO Report
- Link to GAO Webpage with Report
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Fortunately, the FCC recently started considering a plan that would require satellite companies to remove their non-operating vehicles out of space within 5 years (rather than 25 years) to prevent avoidable problems with space junk (fatalities, etc.). Seems reasonable, right?
Still, the FCC is always supposed to protect Americans by regulating the telecom industry. Instead, it has primarily catered to the industry for decades (see 1, 2). This has led to several lawsuits filed against the agency including one by a group of telecom experts (“The Irregulators”) who proved Americans have already paid for high speed broadband with safer and more secure connections via fiber optics to the premises (FTTP) and copper landlines. Hence – all FCC grants for the deployment of high-speed broadband on land and in space are essentially unjustified (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12).
Additionally, in 2021, a federal court ruled in favor of organizations and petitioners that sued the FCC for NOT adequately protecting Americans from radiation exposure from 5G and other sources of wireless including broadband satellites. That’s significant too.
Activist Post reports regularly about broadband access, satellites and unsafe technology. For more information visit our archives and the following websites: