News published at the end of last year in the Russian edition of Popular Mechanics magazine may represent an obstacle to Elon Musk’s dream of making Starlink a worldwide internet network: a bill presented to the State Duma, the Russian legislative body, provides for fines for those using Western satellite internet services.
The new project establishes that all internet traffic must pass through the station of the Russian telecommunications operator, and that the use of Starlink and other similar systems, by sending direct signals via satellite, disregards Russian operators.
According to a report, obtained by Popular Mechanics, the fines can vary from 10 thousand to 30 thousand rubles, the equivalent of R $ 720 to R $ 2.2 thousand, in the case of ordinary users; and from 500 thousand to 1 million rubles (R $ 36 thousand to R $ 72 thousand) for legal entities that use Western internet services.
Behind this covert blockade, there are clear political interests: to try to pass the law, Duma members claim that accessing the internet independently would be a way of circumventing the Operational Search Measures System that monitors the use of the internet and communications in the country.
The head of the Russian space program Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, sees SpaceX as a rival in the field of space flight. For him, Starlink is part of “a very predatory, intelligent, powerful and highly technological policy” to serve the military interests of the United States.
To face the western competition, Russia is planning its own constellation of satellites for internet supply, which will be called “Sphere”. However, the launch of this constellation, scheduled for 2024, runs into costs, as the program’s budget would reach US $ 20 billion, which is almost ten times the annual budget of Roscosmos de Rogozin.