It already has robot cars, sea barges, and balloons, and now Google is conquering a new frontier: Outer space. The search giant plans to spend more than $1 billion—and, depending on how things go, perhaps more than $3 billion—to send a fleet of satellites into orbit, with the goal of bringing Internet access to the still-unwired corners of the globe, the Wall Street Journal reports today. Initial plans call for 180 small satellites, which will circle the earth at an unusually low altitude.
"Internet connectivity significantly improves people's lives. Yet two thirds of the world have no access at all," a Google spokeswoman said, while declining to comment further on the effort. But some observers are skeptical, noting that past Internet satellite efforts have failed—one company has been trying to do this since the 1990s. "This is exactly the kind of pipe dream we have seen before," says one satellite consulting firm, predicting that Google's project will end up "costing more than they can imagine today."