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The White House turns to Musk’s satellite internet for Iran

File photo/starlink logo with flag of Ukraine

The White House is in talks with billionaire Elon Musk about setting up SpaceX's satellite internet service Starlink in Iran, CNN reported on Friday, citing officials familiar with the matter.

The satellite-based broadband service could help Iranians circumvent the regime's restrictions on accessing the internet and certain social media platforms.

The Islamic Republic has been engulfed by protests that erupted after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody last month.

The U.S. Treasury Department last month said that some satellite internet equipment can be exported to Iran, suggesting that the company may not need a license to provide satellite broadband service in the country.

The White House sees Starlink’s compact, easy-to-use technology as a potential solution to the Iranian regime’s aggressive efforts to restrict activists’ internet access and communications.

Musk said on Tuesday Starlink has not received any funding from the U.S. Department of Defense for its services in Ukraine, adding the company was losing about $20 million a month due to unpaid service and costs on security measures for cyberwar defense.

The needs of Iranian protesters and Ukrainian soldiers, and how they would use Starlink, are wildly different. And experts warn that while Starlink in Ukraine has been critical to battlefield successes, getting Starlink into Iran would be a much bigger and potentially more dangerous challenge.

SpaceX and the White House did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

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