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Russia threatens Starlink and OneWeb users

January 20, 2021

Reports out of Moscow state that Russia’s lower house of parliament (Duma) has legislated penalties for any citizen using Elon Musk’s Starlink or the UK/India-backed OneWeb low Earth orbiting satellite systems.

Neither company currently has users in Russia.

Russia is reportedly working on ‘Sphere’ (Сфера, in Russian), its own mega-constellation of satellites. But the probable cost of anything between $15-$20 billion for a rival to Starlink is much greater than Russian Space Agency Roscosmos current budget (which is below $2.5 billion annually).
Roscosmos’ Director General Dmitry Rogozin has been highly critical of Starlink in the recent past. For example, he has described Elon Musk and his Starlink system as being “predatory, intelligent, powerful and high-tech”.

The Duma decision has proposed fines on businesses of up to 1 million Rubles ($13,500) for those circumventing Russia’s national Internet suppliers, according to a well-sourced report in Popular Mechanics and detailed in technology site ArsTechnica. For ordinary citizens the fines range from 10,000-30,000 Rubles ($130-$400).

The report might make life difficult for the likes of Starlink or OneWeb which might want to route internet traffic through Russia. However, OneWeb, in particular, is depending on Russian assistance in launching their satellites from Russia’s Vostochny space port (although using Arianespace Soyuz rockets).

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