This week, at the reMARS conference, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos expanded on the company's plans to launch thousands of satellites into low-orbit in order to blanket the face of the earth with high-speed broadband internet.
Amazon first announced back in April that it would launch 3,236 satellites in an initiative the company calls Project Kuiper. The company even poached top talent from rival SpaceX to beef up its leadership ranks as it ramps up its efforts.
According to Bezos, "The goal here is broadband everywhere."
That's great, but it's also a huge, lofty endeavor. According to the UN's Broadband Commission, as many as 4 billion people lack reliable access to high-speed internet, and reaching most of them isn't going to work with wires since they live in rural or extremely undeveloped parts of the planet.
In fact, Bezos is clear that one of the reasons Amazon is taking on a project of this size is because it can.
"It's also a very good business for Amazon because it's a very high-capex [capital expenditure] undertaking. It's multiple billions of dollars of capex," said Bezos. "Amazon is a large enough company now that we need to do things that, if they work, can actually move the needle."
"Move the needle."
These comments suggest that Amazon isn't just doing this for goodwill, though the company could probably use some right now as it faces additional regulatory scrutiny along with the rest of the tech industry. Amazon has a real interest in expanding internet access to the far corners of the world since, you know, it sells things over the internet.
The larger your company gets, the harder it is to "move the needle," as Bezos puts it. Investing a few billion dollars in exchange for more than doubling your potential customer base seems like it would probably count.
But there's something even more interesting that Bezos said.
"I think you can see going forward that internet, access to broadband is going to be very close to being a fundamental human need as we move forward," he told the audience at the fireside chat.
"Fundamental human need."
Look, I can remember a time when the internet was something you accessed in small doses because you only got like 100 minutes a month. Seriously, when AOL switched to unlimited monthly plans it was like humanity had rediscovered fire. It was a whole new world.
We don't live in that world anymore.
Most of us are connected to the internet all the time. Our smartphones, laptops, watches, tablets, thermostats, and even appliances depend on the internet all the time, but I'm not sure any of us consider it a fundamental human need (okay, until we lose our smartphone, then it becomes extremely fundamental). We just don't even think about it because we take it for granted that we can always be connected.
In many parts of the world, that's not the case.
The thing that is most interesting to me about Bezos' comments isn't that it represents a new project for Amazon or a new business idea. Project Kuiper represents a new way of thinking about how the world should be connected, and the company is actually putting its money behind it.
What will be even more interesting is how entrepreneurial-thinking minds get behind this idea that everyone should have access to the digital world. For many of us, the world already feels small because we can access so much of it online. Imagine the implications for your business when you can literally connect to anyone, anywhere.
That's exactly the world Bezos seems to be imagining, and I suspect he hopes they'll all be buying stuff from Amazon.
It's a whole new world indeed.