SpaceX is working to connect rural and remote areas around the globe to Starlink satellite internet. The company is actively launching satellites to low Earth orbit, it has launched around 1,737 internet-beaming satellites to date. Overall, the constellation will have over 4,400 satellites. Space-based Starlink internet provides reliable high-speed internet in rural communities where terrestrial connection is unreliable or too expensive. SpaceX is already beaming internet signal to customers living in portions of the United States and abroad.
North Carolina’s 16-mile-long Ocracoke Island is a prime example of how geographic barriers prevent people to have access to reliable internet service. In some Islands that have a small population internet providers often do not invest in the infrastructure needed to connect to reliable internet because it is too expensive to build and the population is too low to see significant economic gains. This can affect a students education opportunities. Hyde County Schools is the smallest school district in the state, with only 3 schools and 513 students. According to 2019 data collected by North Carolina’s Broadband Infrastructure Office, roughly 37% of people in Hyde County do not have internet access at home. Most in the Ocracoke Island region depend on using data from their cell phone carrier to access the internet, which can be slow. SpaceX's Starlink constellation of satellites orbiting Earth is providing a solution for Islands and other rural regions in the world to have reliable access to the internet.
The Broadband Infrastructure Office and the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation funded SpaceX's Starlink broadband service for the 3 schools and 47 households in the community by using part of the $264,000 USD in funding from the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act; around $88,000 is covering broadband costs for Ocracoke Island students and teachers. “Through the pilot, both Swain County and Ocracoke are testing the feasibility of the satellite internet service for students who live in areas with no broadband or reliable cellular service,” the school district shared in a press release, “On Ocracoke Island, up to 47 Starlink units are being distributed to the homes of K-12 students and teachers. The pilot covers both the initial costs of the equipment, which is roughly $500, and a year of service, worth $99 per month.” All families were provided a Starlink Kit free of charge. The kit includes a dish antenna, Wi-Fi router, power cables, and mounting supplies to connect to the broadband satellites in orbit.
Hyde County officials and school district representatives worked together to bring SpaceX’s Starlink service to their community. They have been using the service for around three months and shared in a video (shown below) that Starlink has changed their life because it offers more reliable service than what they previously worked with. “We were having a very difficult time during remote learning, because -this is my daughter- and she was in school while I was trying to … have a million Zoom meetings all day long. Having Starlink really changed the ability to be able to Zoom during the day. I’ve found success with it,” said Nancy Leach, Hyde County Schools Director of Student Support Services. “The top [Starlink] speed we’ve ever received is 260Mbps [megabits per second],” shared Sabrina Lynn King Bowen, the Hyde County Schools Instructional Technology Coach. –“It ranges from 130 to I’ve had as far as 260Mbps,” a teacher assistant, Heather O’Neal, added. Watch the Hyde County Schools representatives talk about Starlink in the short video clip below.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.