SpaceX plans to deploy thousands of internet-beaming Starlink satellites to provide low-latency, high-speed broadband internet service worldwide. The company’s objective is to connect rural areas across Earth, primarily focused on providing service in locations where internet communication is unreliable and non-existent. With approximately 960 Starlink satellites already operating in low Earth orbit, SpaceX started to offer broadband service in northern United States and Canada.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic that forced schools to close across America, teachers realized many students do not have reliable internet at home to participate in online learning. The Wise County School District, located in a rural area in the state of Virginia, did a survey within their community that says 40% of students' households do not have access to internet at home. The school district is now collaborating with the U.S. government and SpaceX to provide satellite internet to the community. "A national call is being made for federal action to end the digital divide. Our state and national leaders like U.S. Senator Mark Warner have taken up the torch to push for ubiquitous broadband internet for all, using Wise County as a case study. This project with SpaceX is bringing together a unique combination of partners," the school district announced on Wednesday. – “Wise County Public Schools, in collaboration with the Wise County Board of Supervisors, is proud to launch an innovative new project with SpaceX to expand internet access in Wise County. Wise County is the first school district in Virginia to utilize SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet constellation to connect Wise County students with high-speed, low latency broadband,” a school district representative wrote in a press release.
SpaceX will provide free Starlink internet to the school district, as well as 45 student households in the area. “The school district will identify the families and facilitate delivery of the necessary equipment to those homes. The service will be active early in 2021. As the network capabilities continue to grow, it will expand to serve an additional 90 Wise County families,” the representative shared. To receive internet connection from the satellites in space the community will receive SpaceX’s Starlink Kits which include a dish antenna, Wi-Fi router, and mounting equipment that is easy to install.
“This innovative partnership represents the opportunity for our county to provide internet access to the unserved or underserved families in our county and is unprecedented action for our school district and our community,” Wise County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Greg Mullins said in a statement released by the school district, “The Covid-19 pandemic created a situation in which our district had to quickly pivot to virtual instruction last March and it was apparent that the lack of broadband access is a crisis in Wise County. With SpaceX, Wise County Administrator, Mr. Mike Hatfield, and the Wise County Board of Supervisors, we are providing space-based internet service to students and families that have few, if any, options. We are appreciative of Mr. Jack Kennedy who worked closely with Senator Mark Warner’s office to pull all of the pieces together and will allow us share our goal for providing equity and access for all students. Today, we are moving closer in closing the digital divide that exists within our community,” he stated on December 14th.
“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to work with committed partners like the Wise County BOS, as well as SpaceX and its next generation internet solution to provide service for our families,” Dr. Mullins added. “Closing the digital divide in our community is a key element in our technology department’s strategic plan. Wise County Public Schools is determined to lead this effort because we believe this is simply the right thing to do for our students,” he said.