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Amazon's ISP dreams start with a crazy new satellite plan

Amazon's already conquered Earth. Now it wants space as well?

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in front of a Blue Origin rocket.

Blue Origin

Amazon is in the early stages of an ambitious plan to create a 3,236-satellite project that would beam broadband internet access worldwide to millions of people.

The company on Thursday confirmed the existence of the program, called Project Kuiper, which was first reported by GeekWire.

"Project Kuiper is a new initiative to launch a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world," an Amazon spokesperson said Thursday. "This is a long-term project that envisions serving tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet. We look forward to partnering on this initiative with companies that share this common vision."

The project seems to follow Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' broad vision of developing more infrastructure in space, especially through his space travel and rocket company, Blue Origin. However, the spokesperson said Project Kuiper is an Amazon effort, not Blue Origin's.

In fact, Blue Origin, is already partnered with satellite operator Telesat on a separate effort to create a broadband internet satellite project.

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Project Kuiper is among a handful of big-concept efforts to expand internet access to more people. SpaceX, Elon Musk's space travel company, is already developing Starlink, a similar project to create a satellite-based internet service that would also rely on thousands of low-orbit satellites. Facebook, too, is working on ways to bring internet access to millions of people through its Facebook Connectivity projects.

The name Project Kuiper likely refers to Gerard Kuiper, an astronomer and the namesake of the Kuiper Belt, which is a collection of ice bodies past Neptune's orbit.

The effort likely shows that Amazon wants to avoid being left out of the race to be an internet service provider to many more people. It also illustrates that the e-commerce giant remains hungry to expand into new industries, after it already grew in cloud computing, TV production, robotics and delivery drones.

The spokesperson declined to say who came up with the orbital ISP initiative or when it began, but noted that it's still early days for the project and that it will take years for broadband service to become available.

The project came to light after the Federal Communications Commission last week filed paperwork on Amazon's behalf the International Telecommunication Union.