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Looking To The Stars For Better Rural Internet

by | Aug 20, 2020 | Blog Posts

13 Ways has recently discovered that we have something in common with – none other than – Elon Musk. No, we didn’t send a Tesla roadster into space blaring David Bowies “Space Oddity”, and we certainly do not have a billion dollars. We do, however, share the mutual desire to better the lives of rural dwellers across North America (and beyond). 

We have written dozens of articles about the importance of high-speed internet for community success. However, we never thought we would be writing an article about a Tech Billionaire giving connectivity the nudge it needs. Now, more than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, with millions working remotely, the importance of reliable internet has become abundantly clear.

Over the past few months, SpaceX has been sending Starlink satellites into orbit to form an eventual megaconstellation of at least 12,000 satellites. These satellites will provide high-speed, affordable internet globally, even to those in the most remote corners of the world. But let’s face it, if you live in a rural community, you have heard this sales pitch before: “fastest rural internet” which usually translates to “fastest and ridiculously overpriced rural internet if you are comparing us to a snail carrying the broadband signal”.

Only 40% of rural communities across North America can access high-speed internet. Because fiber and cable internet require significant infrastructure, many remote areas are left with old satellite and cellular data options. The former option, although affordable, is slow with high latency. The latter is a high-speed option; however, the cost is astronomical. Rural North Americans already spend 22% more money on internet than urban dwellers, but since the pandemic began, those prices have skyrocketed.  Starlink, will provide an affordable (and welcome) alternative to big wireless providers – who currently reap some of the largest profit margins in telecommunications globally.

So, what makes Starlink different than any other internet service provider (ISP)?

Speed: Starlink satellites will beam data across the world at the speed of light (or close to it). Fiber-optic speeds come close to this speed, however light travels 47% faster through space than fiber. Starlink beta testing saw download speeds of 610 Mbps. Comparatively, legacy satellites produce speeds up to 100 Mbps. 

Latency: Latency is the speed at which the internet signal travels from your computer to the satellite and back (and everything else in-between).  Current satellites sit about 35,000 kilometers above earth’s surface, which means the signal has a long way to travel. Starlink satellites sit in low earth orbit (LEO) at only 500 km. The shorter distance means significantly lower latency at approximately 30-60 milliseconds.

Cost: According to Canada Satellite, Starlink internet will cost approximately $80 USD per month.  On average, legacy satellite internet ranges from $50-$150 per month which produces speeds anywhere from 5-100Mbps.

On June 18th, SpaceX filed for a license from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in order to provide internet to rural Canadians in late 2020… and all rural inhabitants let out a collective sigh of relief! This exciting news means that rural communities and residents can finally catch up to urbanites by leveling the playing field when it comes to business, education, healthcare, and everything else we need the internet for in our daily lives. I hope communities are getting ready to maximize the benefits created by this amazing opportunity.