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Asgardia, a micro-nation that calls itself a space kingdom whose territory currently consists of one satellite orbiting around the Earth, seeks to make the Internet nearly free for all users by launching a vast network of satellites and using optical transmission, Minister of Finance of Asgardia Leon Shpilsky told Sputnik.
This is not the only ambitious plan that Asgardia has. The off-planet nation, established in 2016 as a "humanitarian project" by Russian-Azerbaijani scientist and businessman Igor Ashurbeyli, aims to overcome problems that traditional states have, rise above borders and geopolitics, peacefully explore near-Earth and deep space and ultimately build settlements on the Moon. In the meantime, Asgardia wants membership in the United Nations and a budget formed by the citizenship fee, already having the population of over one million, according to its website.
"The main idea for commercial activities is what we call Global Infrastructural Projects. They are all space-related. So in several years, we plan to launch 10,000 satellites into space — they are small — with the idea of using the network of satellites to create a global Internet network," Shpilsky said, asked what the money collected from the recently introduced citizenship fee of 100 euro was going to be used for.
"Right now, the Internet is based on radio frequency. Cellular companies pay billions of dollars to governments for the use of frequencies allocation … Because of that, you pay 20, 30, 50 dollars per month for your cellphone or Internet, because it is very expensive for them to use radio frequency. If we are right, we can avoid this usage of radio frequencies through satellites and through optical transmission. Then, instead of paying 20, 30, 50 dollars, you will pay one or two dollars a month for the same service, with no roaming," he continued.
This year, Shpilsky participated in the World Economic Forum in Davos, the main annual gathering of top public figures and businessmen from around the world. He said he saw real interest from some prominent investors in Asgardia's projects and agreed to have follow-up meetings with them.
Apart from investments, it is the budget of the nation itself that is going to be used for infrastructure projects, since there should be no expenses on defense, military needs, road construction and so on. In November, the parliament of Asgardia decided in its first "digital sitting" that only those who pay the annual 100 euro fee would continue to be residents.
The money should be paid to a real bank existing on Earth related to the NGO Asgardia based in Vienna. At the moment, there are over 270,000 suspended citizens and some 18,000 residents. The population, declared on the website to be over one million, presumably includes followers as well. To become a citizen, one needs to give his consent to the constitution, apart from paying the fee.
The Internet-for-all plan is still at the very initial stage.
"There is a lot of work to actually achieve this, but there is definitely an investment plan. We plan to capitalize this company and will do it with 15 billion euro. So, we have real business plans," the finance minister of the self-proclaimed space nation said.
Besides caring for the needs of Earth's residents, Asgardian officials have plans to make the lives of their fellow countrymen more amusing. The official website of the space nation is going to become more interactive, providing access to some kind of a virtual reality, where Asgardians can meet each other, do business together and enjoy some attributes of life they are used to.
"Our website today is not very active. You sign up, and you go to it, and then there is no reason to come back. And we are changing that, so it is going to become more interactive, and people will come back. They will meet there. They will conduct business there. There will be a market place. There will be a peer-to-peer network, some kind of a dating service. There will be some business proposals that we can review. So people will start to actively use it," Shpilsky said, specifying that they prefer to call it a "digital world" instead of a "virtual" one.
He noted with a smile that there could be a danger of Asgardians becoming addicted to this kind of life, much like what happens with computer games, but this did not seem to worry the minister. "That is the danger of the digital world, people get addicted to it," he added.
If not addicted, there are some Asgardians fully committed to the idea and development of the space nation. Asked how he himself became a citizen, Shpilsky said he "saw in it a lot of science, a lot of economics, finance, and an idea which was very interesting to me."
And when the national anthem of Asgardia suddenly started playing somewhere outside the interview room, the finance minister of the space nation lamented he could not exit to listen to it standing and with due respect.