The moon has better broadband than you do

Having trouble streaming HD video like many others in the US and elsewhere? New advances mean you might find a better connection on lunar soil.

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One small step for man, one giant leap for bufferless streaming? Robin Ohia/Creative Commons license
Thanks to new laser-based communication technology that was tested last year and will be presented at a conference in June, one place where the broadband connection could be better than in much of the United States is on a satellite.

No, not those little man-made deals, I mean that one really big satellite made of cheese rock.

At next month's Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics in San Jose, Calif., the MIT team that collaborated with NASA to demonstrate a system for delivering broadband access to the moon will present new details on how they were able to transmit data from the Earth to the moon at speeds of 19.44 megabits per second.

"Communicating at high data rates from Earth to the moon with laser beams is challenging because of the 400,000-kilometer distance spreading out the light beam," Mark Stevens of MIT's Lincoln Laboratory said in a release. "It's doubly difficult going through the atmosphere, because turbulence can bend light -- causing rapid fading or dropouts of the signal at the receiver."

The team was able to overcome these challenges by sending a signal from a ground terminal in White Sands, N.M., using four separate telescopes.

Now, while an amazing accomplishment, this really stings. As I've documented for Crave, I spent years pursuing the best broadband connection I could find for my rural New Mexico Rocky Mountain home and wound up feeling pretty proud to pull down even a measly 7Mbps. But given the data-intensive demands of things like Skype and the CraveCast, I wound up relocating to Comcast country. Yet I'm still lucky if I can get 19Mbps consistently over cable.

Indeed, according to Akamai's 2013 State of the Internet report, the average global broadband speed is just 3.8Mbps, and in the United States it's still just 10Mbps.

Believe me, we at Crave very much appreciate just how cool it is to be able to stream sci-fi on the surface of the moon, but how about aiming some of those awesome data lasers at my homies in rural New Mexico or sub-Saharan Africa while you're at it? No need to have to adjust for the atmosphere and you're practically just down the road in southern New Mexico.

Then we'd have low enough levels of latency that we could visit the moon virtually via Oculus Rift and everybody wins.

 

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