Home » Starlink begins providing high-speed satellite internet in Alaska

Starlink begins providing high-speed satellite internet in Alaska

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SpaceX on Monday announced Starlink, a high-speed satellite Internet service, has launched in Alaska, with supporters claiming it will send broadband to every corner of the state.

Alaskans who signed up for the service say they want to try it. They hope he, the state’s largest telecommunications company, will offer faster and cheaper service than GCI.

But Starlink is just one ongoing effort that could transform telecommunications in the state, where more than 200 villages lack city-level internet service.

SpaceX, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, builds and launches rockets that carry gear into space, including satellites for the internet. SpaceX’s Starlink uses a series of low-Earth orbit satellites to transmit high-speed signals to Earth.recently received glowing reviews from the Department of Defense after the US military discovered it offered high data and connection speeds at its remote Arctic base.

Arctic resident Bert Sommers said on Monday that he’s giving the service a B for now. In an interview, he said he could not get wired internet from GCI because he was out of town.

On Monday, Sommers installed the newly arrived Starlink dish on the roof.He first tested it on the snowy ground outside his house and recorded it in his family records YouTube video blog“Alaskan Summers”.

Although Starlink’s internet was fast, Somers said the signal was glitching every few minutes, usually for a few seconds. He expects Starlink to improve as more satellites are deployed.

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“I think it’s promising, but I don’t know if it’s fully open at this point,” he said.

Another concern, Somers said, is the operational limit of no more than 22 degrees below zero, according to Starlink’s instructions. Winter temperatures in Alaska can be cooler than that, but he said they might use small heaters to heat food if needed.

Cost is standard $600 for gear. At $110 a month, Summers said it’s cheaper than broadband in town. Once the signal is good enough, he says, he can save money by dropping one of his two cell phone providers that he and his wife Jessica use for their slow home internet. said.

“I’m very excited because there aren’t many other options here,” he said. “I think this is the future. If this becomes a competitor, other Internet companies will also consider lowering their prices.”

A level playing field in rural Alaska

GCI spokeswoman Heather Handyside said the company believes a fiber-based internet is the best way to provide customers with the fastest speeds and nearly unlimited data. The company is aggressively expanding Fiber to additional rural communities, she said.

The company also built a microwave network that provides internet to much of rural Alaska.

GCI also recognizes that fiber-based internet isn’t feasible for many of Alaska’s most remote communities, Handyside said. GCI is having meetings with satellite-based providers to better serve these remote areas, she said.

“We are excited about the potential of low-Earth orbit satellites to help connect the most remote parts of Alaska, and have been closely following Starlink and other LEO-based providers as they deploy this new technology.” She said in a prepared statement.

According to Handyside, the cost and speed of a GCI internet plan depends on how the internet is delivered at your location, such as fiber or microwave. Rural plans range from $60 to $300.

Rural residents often complain of much higher costs because they often exceed their data limits quickly.

John Wallace, a technology contractor at Bethel, the largest community in western Alaska, said he recently received notice from Starlink that his gear was in preparation.

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When that happens, his internet service will be several times faster than what GCI currently offers in Bethel, at a third the price, and with much more data, he said. Told.

Wallace and others say Starlink will greatly expand opportunities in rural Alaska. In rural Alaska, many communities still sometimes struggle with slow dial-up speeds. Affordability and internet capacity will be vastly improved, they say, greatly reducing costs for businesses, families and local governments.

Wallace said Starlink brings capabilities previously only enjoyed by schools and clinics to the home. More people will be able to engage in various fields such as e-commerce, remote work, and online learning.

“There are very few things in rural Alaska where you can stand on the same plane as other people, and this is one of them,” Wallace said.

Starlink is not the first in Alaska

Another low-Earth orbit satellite Internet service has been operating in Alaska for more than a year, said Sean Williams, through the London-based OneWeb satellite, along with Anchorage’s Pacific Dataport.

Pacific Dataport is providing its broadband internet service to some villages, Williams said.

This includes Akiak with a population of 500 in the Bethel area.

Thanks to this internet, Akiak’s family has access to fast and cheap broadband in the village, and many people have access to broadband in their homes, according to Shaun Williams, president of the Akiak tribe. No Mike Williams said. He also chairs the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Tribal Broadband Consortium, which sells OneWeb signals to many village households for $75 a month.

Mike Williams said there were still glitches in the signal, but he said they were rare and would be addressed quickly. Service has improved over time, he said.

“More and more people are fixing consumer electronics through YouTube,” says Mike Williams. “We see opportunities for economic development, like people selling furs and artwork. Kids are using it for education and it has Zoom functionality. When the above issues arise, information will be available online about what is happening to your health.”

Early next year, Pacific Dataport will launch its own high-tech satellite, Aurora 4A, to provide satellite services across Alaska, Sean Williams said.

Textile reaches many villages

Among other efforts, the federal government has awarded about $700 million to businesses and tribes for new Internet programs, with a focus on expanding the state’s skeletal fiber optic backbone, according to an Alaska Broadband Office official. .

This will extend broadband to approximately 80 additional Alaskan communities over the next few years. The community is now considered underserved or underserved due to the lack of high speed internet.

Much of federal funding comes from huge bipartisan infrastructure laws passed it Last year by Congress.

The state broadband office, newly created this year, also plans to secure more federal funding to bring high-speed broadband to more villages, said executive director Thomas Lochner. increase.

“There is a huge opportunity within the state to close the digital divide,” says Lochner. “Within the next 10 years, I predict that 100% of Alaska’s communities will be connected to robust broadband systems due to the innovative funding the federal government will bring to the state to connect all of these communities. .”

GCI is part of a partnership awarded $73 million to bring fiber optic cables to Bethel and several other villages in Southwest Alaska for more than 10,000 people. This is just one of the federally funded projects.

Handyside said it will be in service at Bethel in 2024, followed by other communities.

Sean Williams said fiber in Alaska is very expensive to provide per household, especially compared to newer satellite-based internet.

“If you run fiber, it’s not cheap. And if you run satellite broadband, it’s much more cost-effective and much quicker to deploy without having to study the environmental impact,” he said. Told.

It will be several years or more before fiber-based services reach new villages, said Akiak’s Mike Williams. So at the moment, satellite-based broadband is the best option for many villages, whether it’s OneWeb or SpaceX satellites, he said.

“It’s been great over the past year that the Internet has gone broadband,” he said.

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