Starlink—Progress or Regress

Group 6


The Internet is necessary for modern people as a significant tool, but in a great number of rural and remote areas, the connectivity is poor (which is based on submarine fibre cable with fixed import and export) due to the geographical environment. In order to solve this issue, a private spaceflight company SpaceX developed a new satellite network called Starlink. It can bypass the limitations of infrastructure by connecting users to satellites directly with lasers, providing people access to higher speed Internet at a relatively low cost. However, the Starlink may lead to some disputes at the same time, because international regulations and common practices in the space region have not been developed yet.

So, should we accept the new global network connection? Or should the Starlink be rejected? This article will discuss the ethics with Starlink and the consequences it may cause.

The case For: Regress of the Global Network – cheaper, faster & greater reach

Although starlink’s current price of $99 per month is relatively expensive compared to other traditional network supply, as up to 42,000 satellites expected in the future going into orbit on a large scale, it is foreseeable that the cost of use will be lower than the current fibre optic network. Additionally, higher quality network transmissions with speeds of up to 500 Mbps (1) will be provided, and transmission stability will be guaranteed. Space-based networks could make productive life around the world smoother than ever before. As utilitarianism theory emphasised, the action that brings the greatest happiness for the most people is supposed to be chosen. By developing this new global network, most human beings around the world— no matter if they live in remote, backward areas or in prosperous city centres, they can all benefit. Therefore, this project Starlink is accessible through Utilitarianism theory.

As a space-based network, Starlink has features of bypassing regional infrastructure limitations and directly providing a steady and high-speed network, which can help developing and lagging countries develop services related to networks and build stronger links with the world, eventually improving people’s living quality. For example, the Ebola outbreak in Africa, excellent doctors in developed countries can provide guidance on fighting the epidemic remotely via Starlink. When the Pacific Rim countries were hit by an earthquake, doctors from the World Red Cross can provide emergency surgery for the injured via starlink’s high-speed connection. With the high-quality network, for those patients who cannot be transferred in a timely manner, it is achievable that medical specialists can perform remote surgery for them to save lives in the future. This aid provided from developed regions to remote areas is ‘human activities that are carried out to maintain, continue and repair the world’, it can be seen to agree with the care ethics theories, which emphasise the moral importance of relationships and the duties of care between regions. Moreover, virtue theory focuses on the nature of the acting people, doctors save people from sickness and death which is exactly the embodiment of their good characteristics, and Starlink can help them play a greater role in saving lives in places where they are needed.

Furthermore, traditional networks rely on optical fibre buried in the ground for transmission, but this kind of infrastructure could be destroyed by an unexpected catastrophe, such as an earthquake. Starlink, which realised the direct information transmission technology between satellites and users, breaks out the constraints. After the disaster, the accurate situation of the disaster can be quickly reflected to the rescue force, avoiding wasting time in confirming. Deontological theory believes that an action can be considered morally right if it conforms to certain moral rules (norms, laws or principle), it is the government’s duty to save people’s lives and property, and faster information transmission means more efficient rescue.

The case Against: Reduce World Safety: Conflict, Confrontation & Obstacles to cosmic expedition

The University of Columbia indicates that SpaceX, OneWeb, Amazon and StarNet/GW expect to send a total of 65,000 satellites into low earth orbit (2), while SpaceX alone is planning to launch 42,000 of them, therefore, the Starlink is absolutely dominant in both quantity and space, which will undoubtedly constitute a monopoly, virtue theory declares judging something based on past experience which is its nature, corporate monopoly often leads to all kinds of serious consequences, thus monopoly of Starlink is worth to be concerned.

Starlink eliminates the traditional fixed entry and exit points of international fibre optic cables, increasing the mobility of information on the internet as well as the flow of illegal information. Starlink has the potential to spread a culture of terrorism.

The Starlink project is defined as a commercial satellite network, but it is hard to ignore military use. The applications of Starlink satellites include communication transmission, satellite imaging, remote sensing detection, etc. These applications are also applicable to the military field. In addition, the US Army and Air Force have cooperated with SpaceX companies to explore the use of Starlink satellites for military services. There are disputes between the US and its rivals, especially in such systems that can obtain crucial confidential geography and information. Explained with duty theory, as regional administrators, who have a duty to protect the interests of their side, they may be prepared to take action to stop or even destroy the Starlink system, which would undoubtedly lead to tensions in world relations.

In 2013 a massive data collection scheme by a certain country against any person in any other country came to light. Although the program was insistently stated to be for the prevention of terrorism in this instance, it still drew the ire of many governments and people in the region. SpaceX, as a private company, created Starlink with the original goal of providing the world with more powerful internet connections. But the Kantian theory proposes that whether one is good or bad depends on the motivation of one’s actions, not on the goodness of the consequences of those actions. Starlink is doing acts that can bypass regional regulation in the unregulated space sector, and it is hard not to be reminded of the events of 2013. Starlink could become a tool for surveillance of the world, or it could become a tool for killer positioning.

Furthermore, Starlink will have a significant impact on world astronomical exploration and astronomical observation after the launch of the 42,000 satellites (3). These densely populated Starlink satellites will inevitably become obstacles for astronomers and enthusiasts to observe space and may bring about the light pollution, space junk in the future. It is worth mentioning that in the current situation where resources of the Earth are being rapidly consumed and the environment is gradually being polluted, before a clear and safe renewable energy being widely used, space exploration for another habitable planet could be the only way that keeps the continuation of humans. Therefore, does this mean that Starlink goes against utilitarianism theory? Will it drag humans into a potential self-destructive trap? It is a problem worth worrying about.

Initial Decision

we are against Starlink


9 thoughts on “Starlink—Progress or Regress

  1. starlink is indeed an issue of concern. There are reports that starlink has been used in recent conflicts, which may lead other countries to reject starlink for fear of compromising their own interests.

  2. I completely support your decision. Without a doubt, Starlink is more accessible to non-military personnel. However, since the first satellite was launched into space, the capability of satellites has been a contentious issue. Your ethical discussion is critical. For my part, I believe that more and more technology companies are becoming victims of competition between powerful countries. Starlink is a fantastic idea, but there is still a long way to go, and it is not just about technology.

  3. Starlink targets people in remote areas, but at the current cost of $99 per month, most people should not be able to afford it. Frankly speaking, the intuitive benefit from Starlink is small, and the advantages of Starlink are limited compared to the resulting crowding of space resources, obstacles to space observation, and satellite recovery problems, etc. Thus the Starlink program is not suitable for implementation at this time.

  4. I’m also against it. Deploying high density satellites that provide connections at speeds way below 10 Gigabit network transmission speeds Starlink made it feels like a major step backwards in network development. But he gives an idea of how the network coverage could be done, but I still don’t think it’s the optimal solution.

  5. I agree with the points made in the article. There is no doubt that starlink and the Tesla smart car rising behind has the capacity to further invade personal privacy.
    I am not so much in agreement with the use of care ethics theories in humanitarian action. Because that doesn’t seem to be an obligation or a responsibility for other countries.

  6. I love this topic and through this article I learned for the first time about the superiority of laser transmission of information. The dilemma is clear and the aspects for and against are properly argued in the process. In the for section, the use of the care theory seems a little inappropriate. The virtue theory is not supposed to celebrate someone’s virtues, but to argue that his actions are right through his character. In the objection section, I argue that Kant’s theory represents not that a person’s motives determine how good or bad that person is, but how good or bad that behaviour is.
    Overall a very good article and I support the ideas in the text i.e. against the star chain!

  7. As a consumer, the relatively low cost of network transmission is tempting. But no one can know what such private companies will do for direct personal gain. So I don’t think it is the best choice to let SpaceX do the satellite network.

  8. Apparently Starlink is taking up all the available orbits deliberately and it’ s basically ignoring all the “traffic rules” up there. As their satellite’ s dirt cheap, they will always lose less in a space car crash than the other party.

    Can’ t find a link for the article… Although if this is true, it is would be quite reassuring to have the CEO of SpaceX ALSO run the largest self-driving car brand on the planet.)

  9. Feedback
    1. Clarity of problem/dilemma
    You clearly stated the issue and gave an advantage and disadvantage.

    2. Use of ethical theories in the For Case
    You made good use of the four main theories in your supporting argument. The utilitarianism case is clear and strong. Care ethics is a little difficult to use as it’s not clear what relationship is being enhanced/maintained (which is not a fault of yours). Is it between users and internet provider – and is the provider Starlink?

    3. Use of Ethical theories in the Against case
    Another good use of theories. No comments from me, here.

    4. Advice on Assignment Two
    Have a good think about stakeholders. In my comments to you in the For case, I wasn’t sure if Starlink is the internet provider – that is the entity a customer pays for using the internet – or not. This may be because the information isn’t there. Customers, internet provider, Starlink, national regulators and the environment are some of the stakeholders.
    Courses for Action will probably have to focus on win-win since Starlink is currently launching satellites but that doesn’t mean Black/White can’t be considered.

    5. Personal remarks
    Personally, I’m against Starlink as, currently, the satellites have a five-year lifespan. After five years they fall back to Earth burning up in her atmosphere. This sort of wasteful ‘throw-away’ mentality isn’t something we can afford to keep doing in my opinion.

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