IGF 2023 WS #468 Broadband from Space! Can it close the Digital Divide?

Tuesday, 10th October, 2023 (07:30 UTC) - Tuesday, 10th October, 2023 (08:30 UTC)
WS 3 – Annex Hall 2

Digital Divides & Inclusion
Affordable Access
Gender Digital Divide

Organizer 1: Dan York, 🔒Internet Society
Organizer 2: Don Means, 🔒Gigabit Libraries Network

Speaker 1: Dan York, Technical Community, Intergovernmental Organization
Speaker 2: Don Means, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Nkem Osuigwe, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 4: Kulesza Joanna, Civil Society, Eastern European Group

Additional Speakers

Berna Akcali Gur, Legal Scholar, ICTs and International Law, EU Law, World Trade Law, Space Law


Don Means, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Dan York, Technical Community, Intergovernmental Organization


Dan York, Technical Community, Intergovernmental Organization


Round Table - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

How can space-based Internet access play a role to close the digital divide, particularly with new low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite systems? What are the policy, business, and technology concerns that must be addressed within a country in order for it to maximize the potential of space-based Internet access? How can space-based Internet access help address sustainability issues such as adaptation to climate crisis events like extreme weather disasters?

What will participants gain from attending this session? Participants will leave with a solid understanding of: The current state of development of space-based Internet access systems Both opportunities and challenges of using space-based Internet access The outlook for the next few years as new systems continue to launch How libraries and other community centers can best use space-based Internet systems to provide access to information, health and educational opportunities as well as community resilence Policy issues that must be addressed - both within the IGF and international community, and also within local communities Next steps participants can take when they return home to advance the work of using space-based systems to increase Internet connectivity and close the digital divide.


How can space-based Internet access help us connect the unconnected and close the digital divide? Marking the advent of a new era in satellite communications over the next few years, thousands of new satellites are planned to be launched into low Earth orbit (LEO), medium Earth orbit (MEO), and into geosynchronous orbit (GEO). What are the opportunities and challenges for this emergent satellite-based ecosystem? How can they work together to help us bring connectivity into every community, everywhere? And what are the policy issues that must be addressed both internationally and within nations? In this workshop, panelists will provide insight into the unique capabilities, current state of deployment and outlook for where the industry is going. They will bring real case studies of where space-based Internet systems are helping in places where ground-based Internet access was not yet possible. The group will look at how space-based Internet access can help community hubs such as libraries provide services to their communities - and to help those communities provide information out to the global Internet. The session will explore the steps needed for satellite systems to be available and affordable in a given country, and also look at how LEO, MEO, and GEO satellite systems are starting to integrate in “multi-orbit” systems. Panelists will outline the policy, business and technology aspects - and also the many questions that are still unanswered, including space debris and environmental concerns. By the end of the session, participants will understand how these systems are working today, projections about where they are going, and how we all need to work together to optimize these systems to connect the unconnected and bring the opportunities of the Internet to everyone.

Expected Outcomes

The session will further advance the global dialogue on using space-based Internet access to connect unconnected communities and (finally?) close the digital divide. The discussions and information will feed into new articles, documents, and events such as webinars that will continue the discussion both within the IGF community as well as the wider UN and global communities. A goal will be to stimulate new strategies for policies and projects to use satellite-based connectivity for expanded Internet access in the least connected regions of the world.

Hybrid Format: Both organizers have been involved extensively with organizing events that are in-person, online, and hybrid. We will ensure the best possible experience by: Managing the interaction queue appropriately to ensure that both people in the room and people online get appropriate time - one will not be favored over the other. Ensuring that people online hear the onsite questions and information, repeating them if necessary. Providing mechanisms where questions can be submitted by anyone, such as via hashtags on social services that will be monitored by the online moderator. Potentially using polls, quizzes, and word clouds from services such as Mentimeter (https://www.mentimeter.com/ ) or Slido (https://www.slido.com ) where people can participate via mobile phones, both onsite and online. Together, these steps will allow participation and engagement, regardless of whether they are physically in the room or joining from anywhere in the world.