Elon Musk’s hope to operate his satellite internet firm in Iran requires permission from the Treasury Department, which said Tuesday it welcomes applications to support internet freedom in the country that is largely isolated from Wwestern economies.
Tesla CEO, Jake Sullivan tweeted Monday that Starlink, his satellite internet company Starlink, would apply for Iranian permission. National security adviser Jake Sullivan said it’s up to Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to decide on Starlink’s next steps.
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“We have of course, in the past, provided for various forms of exemptions for the Iranian people’s ability to communicate with each other and with the world,”Sullivan made these remarks during a White House Press Briefing on Tuesday.
Starlink, which is also owned by Musk and is part of SpaceX’s spacecraft manufacturing division, has been operational since 2019. This satellite network enables broadband access to the world by dispersing thousands of satellites around the Earth.
The firm has attempted to provide internet access to the Ukrainian people during Russia’s invasion and has acquired contracts with the U.S. military since as early as 2021.
Starlink could block access to internet for the Iranian population. The government has tight control over internet access.
Under condition of anonymity, a Treasury spokesperson said that the Office of Foreign Assets Control is open to applications for licences authorizing activities in support of internet freedom in Iran.
In 2014, Treasury’s sanctions arm issued a license authorizing exports of software and services to Iran that would allow the free exchange of communication over the internet, with the intent to foster the free flow of information to Iranian citizens.
However, Iranian firms are reluctant to conduct business there despite this allowance. They fear that they might violate existing sanctions or any other laws that could impose harsh penalties.
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However, in January 2021, Github — a source code storage service— announced that it secured a license from Treasury to offer its services to developers in Iran.
“We were able to demonstrate how developer use of GitHub advances human progress, international communication, and the enduring US foreign policy of promoting free speech and the free flow of information,” the company’s website states.
An Associated Press inquiry for SpaceX response was not answered by a representative of SpaceX.
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