Science & Tech

Elon Musk takes just 9 minutes to go back on internet offer to Tonga

Elon Musk takes just 9 minutes to go back on internet offer to Tonga
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When it became clear that Tonga may spend a month without internet cable after a recent volcanic eruption and tsunami, Elon Musk was on hand, offering to get it back up and running with his SpaceX Starlink - but then backtracked on the offer minutes later on Twitter.

As a result of the volcano eruption on January 15th, which was 500 times more powerful than an atomic bomb, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit the Pacific Island and caused a tsunami, knocking out the country's telecommunication networks.

On Wednesday, phones were reconnected but until the undersea cable gets fixed after being severed from the recent natural disaster, the people of Tonga remain without internet.

Though billionaire Elon Musk has since offered to help (albeit, an offer that stood for a few minutes before being backpedalled).

In a tweet, responding to a Reuter's article about the currently limited internet access in the country, Musk questioned whether the Tongan people thought it was important for Space X to send over some of their Starlink satellites to the island in order to provide them with internet access through laser links.

He asked: "Could people from Tonga let us know if it is important for SpaceX to send over Starlink terminals."

However, there was an issue with this which caused Musk to make a rapid U-turn.

Soon after he made the offer, the billionaire quickly replied to a letter addressed to him from New Zealand MP Shane Reti who urged him to contribute his Starlink to the reconnection effort.

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"This is a hard thing for us to do right now, as we don’t have enough satellites with laser links and there are already geo sats that serve the Tonga region. That is why I’m asking for clear confirmation," he tweeted.

Basically, the geo satellites which are used for TV, radio, etc and also forecasting the weather are already over the island and so there's not enough space for Musk to move his Starlink terminals over there too.

People on Twitter appear divided over the interaction, with some praising the Space X CEO for being upfront within minutes of whether he could realistically help Tonga out, while other people believe Reti and others have called Musk's bluff and also pointed out while Musk may not be able to help with the country's internet problem, he could provide aid in other areas such as providing food and water to those affected.

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