Google’s Project Loon Expands Bitcoin Access to Developing World

September 26, 2014 23:55 UTC

One problem with digital currency and Bitcoin in the modern world is its inherent connection to the internet. Using internet access as a backbone isn’t a weakness; rather, the issue is with the world not having a fully-integrated internet system set in place. Some places like the United States and Europe are incredibly close to the internet being as common as electricity, but underdeveloped regions still have problems.

According to the Internet Transmissions Union (ITU), by December 2014, sixty percent of the world’s total population still won’t be connected to the internet; exiling around four billion people from using Bitcoin. In their annual report, the ITU wrote the following:

“By end 2014, the number of Internet users globally will have reached almost 3 billion. Two-thirds of the world’s Internet users are from the developing world. This corresponds to an Internet-user penetration of 40 per cent globally, 78 per cent in developed countries and 32 per cent in developing countries. More than 90 per cent of the people who are not yet using the Internet are from the developing world.”

Google’s Project Loon

Google’s Loon will be much larger than a weather balloon

Seeing as digital currency is ingrained into internet access, it’s important to find ways to expand inexpensive and reliable internet access all over the world. In order to innovate further on worldwide broadband access, Google unveiled their “Project Loon” last year, utilizing balloons to bring internet to areas in need. Now, the company is claiming they’re making progress on the invention. While the balloon idea may sound crazy to some, it’s part of a larger idea that Google takes head-on.

Astro Teller, Captain of Google X’s Moonshots division, recently spoke in a fireside-type chat at M.I.T. Technology Review’s, a bitcoin-friendly environment, EmTech conference. “In the next year or so we should have a semi-permanent ring of balloons somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere,” he said.

Teller explains that Google takes an approach of rebuilding from the beginning to find weaknesses. By reinventing the way we think of internet access, they find weaknesses and opportunities in the technology as a whole. After testing, the Google balloons can deliver speeds up to 22 megabits per second to fixed antennas along with five megabits per second to mobile devices. To put it into context, the highest speeds Comcast, an internet infrastructure corporate giant, can deliver is 505 megabits per second. So while the Project Loon numbers are small, they are significant to the technology.

Bitcoin Benefits From Google Internet Infrastructure Expansion

Obviously the access to bitcoin will increase as companies or governments create dedicated internet infrastructures globally. Pair that access with cheap technology, such as the $33 Mozilla Firefox mobile phone that debuted in India earlier this year, and using bitcoin becomes as easy as ever. One of the biggest issues against it, though, is corporate giants such as Comcast fighting net neutrality tooth-and-nail.

Google Fiber shows phenomenal speeds to customers that can purchase the service, but may struggle with an uneasy run on the legal side. As larger companies attempt to fight internet innovations, the path could prove wary to bringing bitcoin to the widest range of people possible. For bitcoin to have any hope in worldwide adoption, it might be wisest to cheer for the companies trying the crazy ideas rather than the companies trying to push them out of the competition.

Images courtesy of Flicker and Wikimedia; other images from Shutterstock.

Last modified: September 26, 2014 21:26 UTC

@thelivingaspect

Clay Gillespie a writer and reporter for many different platforms across the tech industry. He holds a B.S. in Public Relations from Ball State University, and freelances for different clients in technology and cryptocurrency. For more information, visit his personal website, claygillespie.com.