Having a good internet connection can be a constant struggle when your community is very isolated. Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, aims to change this and bring high-speed internet to rural areas with their Starlink satellite internet service. Instead of using underground cords and cables. Starlink uses low orbiting satellites to bring internet to remote communities.
Setup is a breeze according to Elon Musk,
“there are just two instructions, and they can be done in either order: point at sky, plug in.”
Limited testing of Starlink is underway in some of the most remote corners of the United States and beta testers are starting to see a difference. “Having Starlink we feel spoiled because we can do whatever we want. There's only three pieces of equipment, you know, there's a router, a dish, and a big long cable,” says one beta tester at the Makah Reservation on the northwestern tip of Washington State (about 170 miles west of Seattle and two hours from the closest Walmart.)
How fast is a remote Starlink internet connection?
Most residents who have internet on the isolated reservation deal with slow speeds and service that suffers during bad weather. They complain about the inability to do basic things online such as joining Zoom meetings. CenturyLink, the main internet service provider on the reservation, showed download speeds just above 1mbps and an upload speed of 0.50 mbps for one Makah Reservation resident.
But with Starlink, one beta tester showed download speeds around 148 mbps and upload speeds of 13.6 mbps. While still below the US average (180 megabits per second for download and 66 megabits per second for uploads) it's far faster than CenturyLink.
How does Starlink satellite internet work in rural communities?
A Starlink dishes is installed on your residence and connects to low orbiting satellites that fly about 341 miles above Earth. According to SpaceX, that's over 60X closer to Earth than the orbits used by some of the other satellite internet providers competing with StarLink.
A closer proximity to Earth reduces the delay of the signal from the satellites to the end users who receive internet service. That's what enables Starlink's internet speeds to be faster than previous satellite internet service providers, like HughesNet net and ViaSat.
How much does StarLink internet service cost?
The biggest issue with Starlink may be the cost. For those on a tight budget, the price can be a big barrier. New customers pay almost $500 in initial equipment fees plus a $99 monthly fee for the service.
Technical support can also be a headache for some. StarLink has a chat box for tech support, but there is no phone number available and the company doesn't send out technicians. Third-party technicians have to be brought in to help troubleshoot issues ranging from bill payment to displacement.
When will StarLink satellite internet service be available near me?
According to their website, “Starlink is available to a limited number of users per coverage area at this time. Orders will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis.”
Your author was surprised to find that Starlink internet is available at his home address in Plattsburgh, NY as well as in Burlington, VT. However, StarLink is still not widely available. If you’re in Concord, NH or Aurora, CO you will have to wait until at least the second half of 2021 for Starlink.
Choosing the best internet service provider for your business can be tricky, especially in rural communities. There are many options for remote connectivity outside of satellite internet.
Finding an ISP that can meet your small business's needs involves a few considerations besides speed and price. Read our guide to find the right internet provider near you.