SpaceX offers free Starlink internet after wildfires, the network is 'quick to set up'

SpaceX offers free Starlink internet after wildfires, the network is 'quick to set up'

Featured Image Source: Washington Emergency Management Division 

The small agricultural town of Malden in eastern Washington state was devastated by rapid-moving wildfires early September. Dozens of homes, the town's City hall, public library, and even the fire department was burned down. Almost a month later, Washington State Military and first responders are still helping rebuild the town of around 200 residents. SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by Elon Musk, is currently helping by providing free Starlink satellite broadband internet connection to the Malden area. Having a stable service helps everyone stay connected as they work to rebuild their community.

The emergency telecommunications leader of the Washington State Military Department's IT division, Richard Hall, told CNBC news in an interview that his team set up SpaceX Starlink user terminals in locations that are severely devastated by the fires, to provide families broadband access that enables them to perform wireless calls and connect online. "I even did setup to allow kids to do some of their initial schooling too, because they were pressing forward with some limited presence slowly. We covered a whole lot of bases," Hall said. "Starlink changes the game as far as what's available."

The Starlink user terminal is a 19-inch dish that receives signal from SpaceX's satellite constellation in space. The aerospace company currently operates around 708 internet-beaming satellites in low Earth orbit. The dish terminal is capable of connecting wirelessly to electronic devices and is easy to install. - "I have never set up any tactical satellite equipment that has been as quick to set up, and anywhere near as reliable" as Starlink, Hall told CNBC reporters.


Hall shared that he set up seven Starlink terminals and it only took him between 5 to 10 minutes to install the service. "I have spent the better part of four or five hours with some satellite equipment trying to get a good [connection]. So, to me, it's amazing," he said, comparing Starlink to other networks that are more difficult to install. - "It doesn't require a truck and a trailer and a whole lot of other additional equipment."

Other networks take an hour to set up, offering "a lot less speed and bandwidth and a lot higher latency in a much larger package," Hall said. SpaceX previously told the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) that the satellites are capable of beaming low-latency broadband internet below 30 milliseconds with download speeds greater than 100 megabits per second.


In his job profession Hall has set up a variety of satellite services, he stated that "there's really no comparison" between Starlink and other networks. "Starlink easily doubles the bandwidth" in comparison, "I've seen lower than 30 millisecond latency consistently," he said.

SpaceX plans to offer Starlink broadband internet before this year comes to an end in northern United States and Canada.

About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn Arevalo

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.

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