December 17, 2020
Starlink, a global satellite internet service provided by Elon Musk’s U.S.-based SpaceX, was recently granted $885 million from the Federal Communication Division’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (the “FCC”). This funding will help expand Starlink’s services and is expected to be a game-changer for areas where fiber internet isn’t available.
High speed internet has traditionally been delivered to end users through fiber cables laid beneath the ground. This works well for cities where high speed internet is widely available, however, rural communities are currently underserved and lack access to adequate internet connection. The FCC estimates that approximately 19 million Americans are currently without access to high speed internet.
Laying fiber cables underground is a major development project with costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Starlink’s satellite internet service provides a novel solution to this expensive and capital intensive process; customers in rural communities would only require a satellite dish from their home to connect to Starlink’s network of satellites in low-earth orbit.
To secure the full funding amount, Starlink must fulfil “periodic buildout requirements” over a period of several years. Phase one of the delivery targets the most remote areas without adequate internet service. Phase two will target “partially-served” areas that have access to high-speed internet but no competition exists between providers. By the end of the process, Starlink will ideally have several million subscribers.
Sixty Starlink satellites were deployed into orbit this past summer that will eventually form a network of 12,000 satellites beaming high-speed internet down to earth. Starlink recently applied for a telecom licence in Canada, signalling hope to many rural Canadian households that do not have access to adequate internet connection.
Author: Kyle Jacobson