USA

Biden to impose sanctions on Cuban communist officials

GIANT BALLOONS

The high-altitude balloons, about the size of a tennis court, are a way to get internet access to remote areas and were used around Puerto Rico in 2017 when Hurricane Maria struck.

The high-altitude balloons, about the size of a tennis court, are a way to get internet access to remote areas and were used around Puerto Rico in 2017 when Hurricane Maria struck.

On Thursday, Ron DeSantis suggested that the Biden administration send balloons to Cuba to act as floating Wi-Fi hotpots to help islanders get back online after the communist regime cut off their access.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said the balloons will be deployed about 20 miles from Cuba, but will require approval from the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration.

It’s also not clear how much they would cost and how much time it would take to run them.

The high-altitude balloons, about the size of a tennis court, are a way to get internet access to remote areas and were used around Puerto Rico in 2017 when Hurricane Maria struck.

The balloons fly about 20 km above the Earth’s surface in the stratosphere.

Winds in the stratosphere are layered, and each wind layer varies in speed and direction, so the balloons use software algorithms to determine where the balloons should go.

It then moves each in a layer of wind blowing in the right direction. By moving with the wind, the balloons can be arranged to form one large communication network.

The balloons use power from map-sized solar panels dangling beneath them, and they can collect enough charge in four hours to power them for a day.

Each balloon can connect to a territory with a diameter of about 40 km using LTE, also known as 4G technology.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, had an internet balloon company called Project Loon. The company was responsible for sending Maria to Puerto Rico in the wake of Maria and also deploying them to remote areas of Kenya.

Alphabet had hoped to put thousands of balloons into the stratosphere, but in January 2020, the CEO said the project was no longer commercially viable and put it on hold.

However, Raven Industries partnered with Google and was closely involved with the project for nearly a decade.

They still have the technology, so they could be bugged if the Biden administration decides to go down that road.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said he discussed the use of Raven, but also suggested other forms of technology.

INTERNET CIRCUMVENTION TOOLS

The freely available internet censorship bypass tool has helped nearly 1.4 million Cubans access websites this week, the company said Friday, after the Cuban government restricted access to popular social media and messaging platforms.

The Toronto-based company’s Psiphon Network receives funding from the US government and has also helped people in other countries, including Iran and China, overcome government restrictions on Internet access.

Psiphon said 1.389 million users accessed the open web from Cuba through its network on Thursday, as well as 1.238 million at noon EDT on Friday.

Psiphon said the roughly 1.4 million account for about 20 percent of Cuban Internet users.

The open source circumvention tool can be downloaded from app stores such as Google Play or Apple to “maximize your chances of bypassing censorship,” the company said. Canadian university researchers developed the software in 2007 to allow users to bypass government Internet firewalls.

“We have to stand behind these authoritarian regimes,” said US Senator Marsha Blackburn, a congressional supporter of US funding for the network.

PRIVATE SATELLITE

Senator Bob Menendez told MSNBC on Tuesday that the US should look at expanding access to the Internet, and consider satellite feeds from the Internet so that people on the island can communicate with each other.

DeSantis also suggested that the US could broadcast satellites to help the protesters get back online and called on private companies to offer their services.

Part of the reason the Cuban government shut down the internet was because they blamed US social media “campaigns” for the unrest.

SpaceX launched a new batch of Starlinks on Tuesday using a recycled Falcon 9 rocket to take the internet satellites to space.  The rocket took off at 3:01 a.m. ET from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida as blue skies blanketed the area

SpaceX launched a new batch of Starlinks on Tuesday using a recycled Falcon 9 rocket to take the internet satellites to space.  The rocket took off at 3:01 a.m. ET from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida as blue skies blanketed the area

SpaceX launched a new batch of Starlinks on Tuesday using a recycled Falcon 9 rocket to take the internet satellites to space. The rocket took off at 3:01 a.m. ET from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida as blue skies blanketed the area

Space X has invested $10 billion in their Starlink satellites. Elon Musk said in June that there are more than 1,500 satellites in the sky and expects the service to be global by August.

Starlink satellites are about 500 km above the surface.

They are a constellation of thousands of satellites designed to provide low-cost broadband Internet services from low Earth orbit.

The constellation, informally known as Starlink, and under development at SpaceX’s facilities in Redmond, Washington.

The goal is to beam superfast internet into your home from space.

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