To make his dream of a satellite-powered Internet come true, technology billionaire Elon Musk must install antennas around the world. In northern France, a village hopes he decides to keep these antennas away.
Saint-Senier-de-Beuvron, a population of 350, is not too excited to be selected as the ground station for Musk’s Starlink project for broadband access from space.
“This project is brand new. We have no idea about the impact of these signals,” said Noemi Braul, a 34-year-old deputy mayor of the village just 20 kilometers from the majestic Mont Saint-Abbey Michel on the English Channel.
“As a precautionary measure, the municipal council said no,” she explained.
The antennas on the ground will pick up the signals and transmit them to separate consumer terminals connected by a cable.
On Starlink the contractor had already secured the approval of the French regulatory authority for the installation of nine “radii” – three meters high (10 feet) globes protecting the antennas – in Saint-Seine, one of the four sites planned for France.
In December, Saint-Senier issued a decree blocking construction on the site.
But the refusal was based on a technical specialty, and the contractor, Sipartech, told AFP it planned to resubmit its request, which the council is unlikely to be able to block.
“This worries us because we have no data” on the possible effects of the signals on human or animal health, said Braul, who is a farmer.
“And when you hear that he wants to implant a chip in people’s brains, it’s scary,” she said, referring to Musk Neuralink’s project.
Francois Dufour, a member of the Council of the Greens and a retired farmer, said he believed residents had reason to worry.
“The risks of electromagnetic waves are something we have already seen with high-voltage power lines, which have worried many farmers in the area,” he said.
Besides, “social networks, the Internet, they already exist – why should we look for the Internet on the moon?” He said.
The French national radio frequency agency ANFR, which approved the Starlink stations, says they pose no risk to residents, not least because they will broadcast directly into the sky.
There are already about 100 such sites in France, dating back to the first satellite launches 50 years ago, he added.
This has not convinced 57-year-old Jean-Marc Belloir, who worries that his cows will start producing less milk.
“We’re always online on our farm. My cows are connected; my smartwatch warns me when they’re going to calve,” Belloir said. “But when you see the range of these antennas, some research needs to be done” about the potential impacts.
Still, he named his latest calf, “SpaceX du Beuvron,” combining Musk’s company with the name of the stream that flows through his village.
“We are not attacking Elon Musk,” said Anne-Marie Falgier, who lives just 60 meters from the future Starlink station with her husband and two children.
“We are not technophobes. I am a driver in the Gulf, I have a website, my husband works from home. But these antennas are brand new, at least in France, and we want to know if they are dangerous or not,” she said.
She also believes that the project is hardly necessary and is unlikely to be of interest to many based on reports from the United States.
“In the testing phase, they made you pay $ 500 (approximately Rs 36,200) for the meal and then you had to pay $ 100 (approximately Rs 7,250) per month for a subscription,” she said. “I don’t think anyone will be able to pay for that.”
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