California Observer

Internet Censorship: Starlink arrives in Iran

Starlink Iran

Image Source: Teslarati

In response to the US allowing private companies to provide Iran with unrestricted internet access amid protests that have claimed more than 40 lives, Elon Musk’s Starlink has enabled its satellite broadband service there.

Following the activation of Starlink in Ukraine earlier this year when Russia’s invasion crippled that nation’s communication networks, there is now free internet access.

Starlink is the first of a new breed of low-Earth orbiting satellite networks created to deliver high-bandwidth internet connections to individual consumers. Users of Starlink are unrestricted by internet censorship because they can get through a nation’s terrestrial communications networks.

However, a specialized terminal is required to pick up a signal from the constellation of satellites that Starlink has 500 kilometers above the planet. The terminals ship in a box roughly the size of two pizza boxes stacked on top of one another and come with a 20-inch satellite dish.

In an interview with the Financial Times last week, Elon Musk stated that he was prepared to launch the Starlink service in Cuba and Iran should US sanctions against doing business there be lifted.

Despite the Iranian government’s refusal to allow Starlink service, Musk claimed it would still be necessary for someone to buy a terminal and smuggle it into Iran. However, doing so would be risky because the government wouldn’t be happy with it.

An “unofficial” figure shown on state television indicates that 41 people have died during the week-long protests erupted in Iran due to the death in custody of a young woman accused of not donning the hijab. Before the US Treasury announced the relaxed restrictions, Iranian officials blocked access to WhatsApp and Instagram last week.

A senior scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace named Karim Sadjadpour posted on Twitter on Sunday that Musk had assured him that Starlink had been turned on in Iran. Musk also said that if somebody managed to get terminals into Iran, they would function.

US State Department approves of Starlink

The US State Department lifted sanctions on Friday, allowing Iran’s communication and internet networks to function. In addition, the new regulations permit US technology companies to operate secure platforms and services within Iran without breaking the normative prohibitions against doing business with Iran.

Additionally, they will let the export of private satellite internet gear, such as Elon Musk’s Starlink service. According to a senior administration official, Starlink discussed offering the service in Tehran with the National Security Council, Treasury, and other US officials.

The state department stated that it supports all strategies for boosting and maintaining internet access in Iran, including private sector support and American initiatives to assist Iranians.

According to a state department spokesman, Ofac would welcome and prioritize SpaceX if it found that some activity targeted towards Iranians required a specific authorization. On the other hand, Ofac also welcomes that dialogue if SpaceX decides that its operation is already allowed and has any queries.

Former officials stated that additional approvals beyond those provided on Friday by the Treasury and State departments might be necessary for Starlink’s operations in Iran.

According to Brian O’Toole, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who is a non-resident and who formerly served as the US Treasury’s senior adviser on sanctions, much of this was done to enable Iranians to access VPNs and other similar services, allowing them to tunnel out and ensure that platforms are available for them to communicate.

Assuming it is impossible to smuggle substantial amounts of Starlink equipment into Iran, getting it there might need cooperation with Iran. In general, you may anticipate that anything interacting with the Iranian government will require particular permission.


Starlink offers Iranians uncensored internet access

Opinions expressed by California Observer contributors are their own.


Opinions expressed by California Observer contributors are their own.