For Your Consideration

For Your Consideration

“Affordable?” internet coming soon to a latitude near you

Thom examines the good news/bad news scenario of Elon Musk’s satellite internet project

Here’s the good news: Fibre-optic quality, high-speed internet is finally physically within reach of Canadians in remote and rural areas.

Here’s the bad news: Fibre-optic quality, high-speed internet, while finally within physical reach, may not be within financial reach of remote and rural Canadians.

When Elon Musk, the owner of SpaceX, launched his Starlink project in 2015, the promise was of affordable internet for the world.

In October 2o20, the CRTC (Canadian Radio Television Commission) granted Starlink a licence. At the end of January, the company expanded its Canadian testing stage to potential users in B.C. from the 48.4 latitude to 51.7 (sorry Smithers rural, you’re North of 54).

That may be just as well, because it is expensive.

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The hardware alone is an upfront cost of $649 and the subscription is $129.

Yikes. I have fibre-optic. With no upfront costs, it is $49 a month. And it is flawless. I did a little test recently. I had my TV running netflix, my phone running sportify and my computer streaming news all at the same time. No problems whatsoever.

By all accounts, Starlink will provide that same level of service, but that’s a lot of money, at least to me.

Here’s the good news: If you can hold off, Starlink may be facing some serious competition. Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, has launched (yes, I am doing that intentionally) his own spacecraft company (Blue Origin) and satellite internet company (Project Kuiper).

There are also smaller players, including Telesat, a made-in-Canada solution that uses a slightly different business model that will not involve end customers having to purchase hardware.

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In theory, competition should drive down the cost, although I’m a little cynical about that once you factor in human greed.

Here’s the bad news: SpaceX has already launched (literally) nearly 1,000 satellites into low Earth orbit. Musk has permission for another 11,000 and is seeking to increase that by 20,000 more.

Bezos is planning on initially putting up 3,2000, but one can only assume that will also dramatically increase. Telesat has so far ordered almost 300.

That’s a lot of space junk, which has astronomers seriously concerned.

Musk has promised to address those concerns.

Hopefully all of these issues can be sorted out. Access to internet has become a necessity in the modern era and the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored even futher the digital disparity based on geography.

It should almost be a national infrastructure project.

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