EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Evil space signals


On 9 September 2008, the Financial Times, the New York Times and Bloomberg ran stories about a search engine’s latest global ambition. It involves creating a new satellite system to reach the planet’s ‘O3b’ (meaning “other three billion” people) without Internet access. That plan is curiously myopic on two points:

A) There is an existing and cheaper space-based alternative for achieving at least the primary desired terrestrial ‘footprints’ at the stated data stream speed. Also, emerging economies and rural communities can avail of extant and less costly ground-based methods for achieving comparable broadband signal reception.

B) The Google-led consortium’s C-level leaders and board members are no doubt convinced that deploying money and nifty new technologies (to perform “good works of lasting merit”) will produce publicity and stock market magic for their companies’ brands. Unfortunately, perhaps preoccupied by daydreams of gleaming corporate responsibility halos, those executives fail to detect a valuation-rending and socially-destructive reality that is fast approaching on a collinear course.

Whatever became of Google’s stellar rhetoric “Don’t be evil”? Long before launching the first O3b bird, Google should proactively educate Earth’s remaining Internet-free yet vulnerable populations on why and how to safely and productively navigate the wild, wild web.

Otherwise, the first thing Internet-enabled newbies will stumble into is pornography. In nanoseconds revered village elders worldwide will ‘pull the plug’ and those Influentials will condemn it as yet another Western attempt to subvert their delicate cultures. Then the other three billion’s legitimate wrath will throttle-up to endlessly re-brand Google, HSBC, Liberty Global and O3b as global pariahs (the apocalyptic “Four Horsemen” of the Information Age) synonymous with ogle, giggle and boondoggle.

Although Google’s PR mask has been wearing pretty thin, this latest spaced-out plan will finally enable the company to jettison all pretence. Then Google and consortium can glory in having achieved unalterably geosynchronous brand hypocrisy orbits.

Jim Egan is the Principal Partner at FERRUMAR. He can be reached on

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