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As technology has steadily improved with the centuries, the
world is becoming more and more connected, affirming Marshall
McLuhan’s view of the “global village”. Society has made the
transition from communicating only in person to being able to
carry a conversation with someone thousands of miles away.
As information technology becomes increasingly sophisticated,
physical distance has become negligible. With the
implementation of the Internet, information placed on a server
could be made accessible to anyone, anywhere and at
anytime. How did this all begin? Why was such a system

The idea of the Internet was actually the brainchild of the
United States. More specifically, it was designed by the United
States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
in 1973. They wanted to investigate new techniques for linking
networks of information to each other. Their main goal was to
develop an efficient protocol for all computers in a particular
network to be able to share information and communicate
efficiently. They called this their “Internetting” project and the
integrated network of computer systems that resulted from
this work is now colloquially referred to as the Internet.

By 1983, the bulk of the Internet research had transferred
hands from the U.S. Department of Defense to the U.S.
National Science Foundation (NSF). They became the backbone
of Internet communication services in the eighties with
additional backing from the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Together, these government-funded organizations made the
Internet, as we know it accessible to many people.

As the popularity of the Internet increased with the general
public, the commercial sector began to have a profound
interest in the concept. By the late eighties, the explosion in
the population of Internet users created a large market for
private networking facilities. Today, the bulk of networking
facilities is educational and research institutions and private

The first networking systems made use of telephone wires for
connection. It was easy to make use of the existing bandwidth
on these wires as telephone poles were already in place in all
urban areas and Internet users did not need to buy too much
additional hardware. However, with telephone wires,
establishing an online connection could be rather slow and
inconvenient. Internet users sometimes had to wait a long
time to dial up the Internet, or they might face a busy signal
and cannot get through. It was inconvenient as well because
using the Internet meant that their phone line was tied up
and they could not receive any phone calls.

Cable Internet helped solve some of those problems. This type
of networking system ensured a permanent connection to the
Internet. Using the same wires that enable television, a
connection to the World Wide Web could be established. This
system got rid of annoying waiting times and increased the
convenience of using the net significantly.

But what happens when you live in a place that does not have
telephone access and cable wires? If you happen to live in the
North Pole or perhaps aboard a ship, does that mean that you
will not be able to have an Internet connection? This problem
can now be addressed with the advent of satellite Internet.
This amazing technology is made possible with the
geostationary satellite. This is a type of satellite that orbits
the Earth around the equator. From its name, you can guess
that it remains stationary with respect to the Earth. The
speed of the satellite ensures that it will not fall out of orbit
and crash into the Earth. At the same time, the satellite’s
speed is sufficient to give it a rotation of one day on Earth.

Twenty-two thousand miles above the equator is where most
of the world’s Geostationary satellites reside. This belt of
satellites is referred to as “Clarke’s Constellation”. The belt is
named after the famous science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke,
who first came up with the idea of using satellites for
communication. After the launching of Sputnik I in 1957,
people started to seriously consider the benefits and profits
associated with satellite communications.

The first major attempt at a geosynchronous satellite was the
United States’ Department of Defense’s ADVENT satellite. It
was stabilized by three axes rather and had an antenna that
directed its radio energy towards the Earth. It was eventually
cancelled because the satellite was large and unwieldy,
making it very difficult to launch into space. A lot of the
technology that makes satellite communication possible existed
in the nineteen-sixties, but they would be greatly improved with
time. One of the most influential improvements was in the
antennas used. In the sixties, capturing the energy required
extremely large and costly reflector plates that were a
hundred feet in diameter! Now, reflector plates that are merely
one and a half foot in diameter are capable of doing the job.
The main communications device in the satellite is known as
the travelling-wave-tube (TWT). This has been greatly
improved as well over the years. When it was first used, it
only had a power output of about one watt. Now it has an
output of fifty to three hundred watts.

The reason why satellites can be used for Internet connection
in areas without wires and cables is because their line of
vision extends great distances. They can “see” and be seen
over vast expanses of land and water. However, because any
transmitted information must travel twenty thousand miles to
get to the receiver, there is about a half-second delay in
receiving the information. For most purposes, this delay is
negligible. For example, if you want to download files and read
the news online, you will not notice this slight delay. However,
if you want to play games online that function with real time or
carry out video conferencing, the half-second delay may
become significant.

There are currently six major companies that provide satellite
communications to the United States: AT&T, COMSAT, GTE,
Alascom, GE Americom, and Hughes Communication.
Altogether, they operate with thirty-six satellites valued at
four billion dollars. The numerous ground stations are
estimated to have a similar value, making the satellite
communications business a multi-billion dollar industry. Every
year, about ten more communications satellites are launched
around the world, each with an estimated value of about
seventy-five million dollars.

Satellite Internet is today’s most practical way for people in
rural and remote communities to transmit and receive
information. Using satellites, the people in these communities
are not limited to local information transfer but they have
access to the global repository of information that is available
on the World Wide Web. Although it is currently the most
expensive form of Internet communication, it is also one of
the most versatile forms. As it continues to increase in
popularity and as the number of satellite Internet providers
goes up, the technology should become less expensive and
more efficient, making it even more accessible to people all
over the world. Arthur C. Clarke would be pleased to know
that his vision has come true.

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