SpaceX has launched around 3,000 internet-beaming Starlink satellites to orbit since 2019 that provide internet service across 37 countries, including to moving vehicles like airplanes, cruise ships, and RVs. The company’s ultimate objective is to connect rural and remote regions globally where communities lack reliable internet access.
Coconino County in Arizona is home to Navajo Nation students where the internet was unreliable until local government officials partnered with SpaceX to bring high-speed Starlink internet to communities.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk believes it is important to expand internet access because it has potential to improve lives. "One Starlink [user terminal] can provide Internet for an entire school of hundreds of students," he shared on May 28, "Great potential to lift people out of poverty. Providing Internet is teaching people to fish," he said. Starlink is a game-changer because the Starlink user terminal is easy to set up by simply connecting it to an electricity source and pointing it at the sky, enabling quick access to high-speed internet in just a few minutes without a professional technician. The easy installation process enables a more affordable option for governments and schools to expand internet access across communities, compared to having to build expensive fiber-optic cable infrastructures.
Coconino County District 5 Supervisor Lena Fowler and Coconino County’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) Matt Fowler met with SpaceX representatives in 2019 when the Starlink division was testing its beta satellite service. "Coconino County successfully became an early customer, purchasing and launching Starlink beta internet in a 45-household trial on May 6, 2021," said County representatives in a press release. "Shortly after, the county identified K-12 students living on the Navajo Nation without access to the internet or existing speeds less than 5 Mbps download and 3 Mbps [Megabits per second] upload."
The school districts then identified the students who qualified for a free-of-charge Starlink user terminal to access the satellite internet network and County representatives worked to connect more households for a free 2-year period which was made possible through private donations. On August 9, SpaceX announced that a total of 150 Navajo Nation households are now connected to Starlink internet. “We know the critical need for quality, reliable internet access to rural Coconino County. Our families and workforce need to be connected to compete in today’s market, grow in their education, and enhance their quality of life. Coconino County, once again, leads the way by providing internet access through an innovative and resourceful partnership,” said Fowler.
“This journey would not have been possible without the continuous teamwork from SpaceX, County Management, our Board of Supervisors, and FUSD. We rely heavily on our public and private partners to offer internet where it historically has been unavailable. This is truly an exciting moment,” commented CIO Matt Fowler. Starlink is already available for purchase across the State of Arizona. The standard Starlink hardware costs $599 USD and the monthly service subscription of $110 USD. The company also offers add-on services like 'Portability' to enable users to take their service wherever they go. Visit Starlink.com for more information.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX