Over the past few years, Internet companies Google, Facebook, Amazon have announced a series of investments in unconventional broadband access points mounted on drones, blimps, and satellites as well as more conventional fiber and wireless. The press releases accompanying these efforts emphasize enhanced access, competition, and development in underserved areas in the United States and around the world. During the telecommunications boom following the 1996 Telecommunications Act, it became apparent that incumbent telecommunications held a stranglehold over last mile connectivity. People like entrepreneurs Craig McCaw and Bill Gates also saw the potential of non-terrestrial solutions, investing in Teledesic, a satellite broadband start-up. These efforts did not succeed but the broadband landscape of 2015 is far different from that of 2001. Today, Internet companies are betting that demand for broadband along with consumer unhappiness with established telecommunications companies will fuel demand for alternate connectivity. Deployed, these technologies will enable Internet companies to overcome the last mile advantage held by telecommunications companies and deal directly with consumers while taking on the costs of administering a network.
But Internet companies do not just have their sights set on the United States. Internet companies see these same technologies as opening the door to new and existing users around the world. These technologies offer the legal advantages of high altitude and orbital broadband access points: they ascend out of the realm of sovereign territory and into international airspace. Internet companies diminish the need to interact with the many different legal regimes of states and instead interact with international law. They gain access users around the world at one stroke.