SpaceX builds up hope in lag-weary rural Alaskans

by Greg Lincoln

Hello friends. In space communications news, the folks at SpaceX were granted permission from the Federal Communications Commission to allow them to launch ten Starlink satellites into our polar orbit. The launch was scheduled to take place on January 14th, 2021.

This is exciting because it means faster, cheaper connectivity for rural Alaska. SpaceX said that Alaska was not in the coverage area of existing Starlink satellites that were previously launched in mid-inclination orbits.

“Launching to polar orbits will enable SpaceX to bring the same high-quality broadband service to the most remote areas of Alaska that other Americans have come to depend upon, especially as the pandemic limits opportunities for in-person contact,” said SpaceX in their November filing.

And this: SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared via Twitter that the 10 polar Starlink satellites will have laser that will enable them to communicate with one another, so no ground stations will be needed over the poles.

In another of Starlink’s petitions to the FCC, it is seeking the legal designation in some states where it was awarded government funding to bring broadband to unserved areas. Starlink is proposing $99 per month plus a one-time fee of $499 for the user terminal, mounting tripod, and router.

How is this possible? Starlink already has over 10,000 users in the US and internationally. It has the capacity for several millions of customers in the US and in other countries.

Alaskans weary of the spotty, slow, throttled, and very expensive current internet services are anxious to see what Starlink can do.

“No more $300 a month with limited data,” said one rural internet user.

“My dad is interested in the system, but his main concern is the reliability of the satellite and its ability to withstand the weather in this region and service support if things do happen to fail,” said another.

And, “I signed up with Starlink to be a Beta tester when they start providing coverage in this area,” another person said.

If you’re interested and tired of the status quo, you can sign up at the Starlink website. The note says that “Starlink is available to a limited number of users per coverage area at this time. Orders will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis.”

Thanks everyone for your responses and interest. And congratulations to all the mushers who participated in this weekend’s dog racing events and to our new K300 champion Richie Diehl and the new Akiak Dash champion Jackie Larson.