The U.S. can break a dictator’s Internet blackout if it wants to

Consider the Commando Solo, the Air Force’s airborne broadcasting center. A revamped cargo plane, the Commando Solo beams out psychological operations in AM and FM for radio, and UHF and VHF for TV. Arquilla doesn’t want to go into detail how the classified plane could get a denied internet up and running again, but if it flies over a bandwidth-denied area, suddenly your Wi-Fi bars will go back up to full strength.

“We have both satellite- and nonsatellite-based assets that can come in and provide access points to get people back online,” Arquilla says. “Some of it is done from ships. You could have a cyber version of pirate radio.”

Then there are cell towers in the sky. The military already uses its aircraft as communications relays in places like Afghanistan. Some companies are figuring out upgrades: FastCom, an effort led by the defense firm Textron, is a project that hooks up cellular pods to the belly of a drone, the better to keep cellular and data connections in the air without pilot fatigue. Underneath the drones, a radius of a few kilometers on the ground would have 3G coverage.