The small French village of Saint-Senier-de-Beuvron in Normandy in north-western France is home to just 368 people and isn’t too happy to discover that SpaceX founder Elon Musk wants to use it as one of the bases for his Starlink project.
Starlink, in the words of its creators, is a project to bring low latency, broadband internet to consumers across the globe. The project will be made possible by thousands of small satellites in low Earth orbit working with transmitters on the ground. It will bring very fast internet to remote areas of the world, helping military and scientific institutions, and as of February 2021 it had over 10,000 users and is opening up to the wider public–more people and more areas can be covered as more satellites are launched.
Starlink had already secured French approval for four sites, one of which was in the village of Saint-Senier-de-Beuvron. The project involves installing nine three-meter tall domes protecting the antennae.
The inhabitants of Saint-Senier-de-Beuvron, however, have said no. The village is just 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) from the historic monument of Mont Saint-Michel and local politicians and residents are worried about the impact.
“This project is totally new. We don’t have any idea of the impact of these signals,” said Noemie Brault, a 34-year-old deputy mayor of the Normandy village, as reported by The Local.
Residents and agriculturalists have expressed worry about the project, with concerns ranging from farmers believing cows will produce less milk or that there will be negative health impacts on locals. Brault referred to Musk’s Neuralink project–which is developing an ultra high bandwidth brain-machine to connect humans and computers–as a reason to need more information about the impact on local residents. “When you hear that he wants to implant a chip in people’s brains, it’s frightening,” she added. Ecologists have raised the alarm for the impact on local flora and fauna.
However, the council was able to block the decision on a technicality and it is unlikely that they can continue blocking the project further, when the contractor, Sipartech, refiles its request. France’s national radio frequency agency ANFR approved the antennae and is sure of their safety, mostly because they claim they will be emitting straight up into the sky.
Normandy’s La Gazette reported that two other sites will be Gravelines in the north and Villenave-d’Ornon in the south of France. Musk reportedly chose the small commune of Saint-Senier-de-Beuvron because it has a good network of fibre optic cables.