SpaceX has launched a total of 3,259 Starlink satellites to Low Earth Orbit, out of at least 12,000 that will be deployed over the next five years. The company already provides internet access to over half-a-million subscribers living across 40 countries. SpaceX Starlink internet is already in use at U.S. public schools in multiple states, including Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk believes in the importance of expanding internet access because it has potential to improve lives through online education and job opportunities. "One Starlink [user terminal] can provide Internet for an entire school of hundreds of students," he said, "Great potential to lift people out of poverty. Providing Internet is teaching people to fish," said Musk via Twitter on May 28. 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 the need for a professional technician. The easy installation process enables a more affordable option for governments and schools to provide internet access to students, compared to having to build expensive fiber-optic cable infrastructures to serve rural communities.
"Starlink enables access to essential online services and resources for rural communities that have historically gone unserved by traditional internet service providers," said SpaceX. "With Starlink, virtual doctor visits and remote learning are now possible for rural communities and students across the globe, including the Ector County Independent School District in Texas, the Wise County Public School District in Virginia, the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, Navajo Nation student homes in Arizona, First Nation homes and schools in rural Ontario and Manitoba, Canada, and remote schools in Sotomó and Calete Sierra, Chile, among many others," the company said.
In 2021, the Wise County School District, located in a rural area in the U.S. state of Virginia, did a survey within their community that showed 40% of students do not have access to internet at home. The school district is collaborating with local government to fund Starlink satellite internet for 90 household in the rural community free-of-charge. The government has also connected more student households in southwestern Virginia this year, a total of 400 homes and 640 students are using Starlink internet at home free-of-charge for two years, according to a report by NBC news.
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. Starlink provided a solution in the region for the local school districts and 47 student homes that didn't have access to internet.
A rural community located in the northwestern U.S. state of New Mexico has been using Starlink since December 2021, thanks to efforts by the Cuba Independent School District and local government who invested $1.2 million of federal relief money to purchase 1,000 Starlink Kits to connect schools and 450 families of students. The community has no fiber-optic cables running through the indigenous village.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX