SpaceX's Starlink internet is in the Russian government's radar, and now the government is threatening to fine citizens who will use Elon Musk's satellite constellation.
SpaceX's Starlink banned in Russia
According to ArsTechnica, the new law was proposed by the State Duma, Russia's legislative body. The law seeks to prevent Russians from accessing the internet through one of Elon Musk's hundreds of satellite.
If caught, citizens could be charged between 10,000 and 30,000 rubles, which is roughly $135 to $405. As for companies, they will be fined up to one million rubles or $6,750 to $13,500 if they use the western satellite service, according to Popular Mechanics.
In response to the new law, Musk posted on Twitter and stated that they are just trying to get people to Mars, which has always been the main goal of SpaceX. Musk added that they would appreciate any form of help.
After launching 143 satellites into Earth's orbit on January 10, which is a record-breaking number, SpaceX is slowly inching towards its mission of wrapping the Earth's orbit with up to 42,000 Starlink satellites to provide fast internet service.
So far, SpaceX has blasted 944 working satellites all in all into space with the help of its own Falcon 9 reusable rockets.
This takeover into the Earth's orbit poses a threat to authoritarian regimes like that of Russia. A service director specializing in telecom technology at GlobalData, John Byrne, stated that it is difficult for Russia to penalize SpaceX, but it is easier for them to penalize, or at least threaten to penalize, the citizens of the country.
Byrne added that a government is able to control the rights to operate a cellular internet service, adding that if China told its network operators to ban some sites through its own internet medium, it would be a lot easier.
Byrne said that satellite usually turns the tables because the government does not control space. Because of this, the government has a much more difficult time regulating content over satellite.
Taking this into consideration, governments do have a right to regulate vertical space. This means that when planes travel in their designated airspace, it is something that governments can regulate.
What is Starlink?
SpaceX's Starlink involves low-earth orbit or LEO satellites, which then operates at a lower altitude compared to the traditional satellites. Starlink has a much higher cellular service because of this.
With that feature in mind, authoritarian governments are now thinking if they should be considered to be within the sphere of their control or not.
Like any other service, Russia has plans to create their own satellite internet constellation that they will name Sfera. According to IntelliNews, Sfera will be launched in 2024.
The project is expected to cost around 1.5 trillion rubles or roughly $20 billion and would allow Russia to continue to monitor domestic internet traffic.
According to Byrne, if Russians use Musk's satellite constellation, Russia could be blocked from monitoring their internet activities and this could increase the tension between Russia and the Untied States.