Starlink satellite internet service goes live in Alaska

Starlink satellite internet service goes live in Alaska

(TNS) – SpaceX announced last week the launch of Starlink in Alaska, its high-speed satellite internet service that supporters say will bring broadband to every corner of the state.

Alaskans who signed up for the service said they were eager to try it out. They expect it to provide faster and cheaper service than GCI, the state’s largest telecommunications company.

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

SpaceX, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, builds and launches rockets that deliver hardware into space, including satellites for the internet. SpaceX’s Starlink uses a series of satellites in low Earth orbit to send fast signals back to Earth. It recently received rave reviews from the Pentagon after the US military discovered it provided high data and connectivity rates at remote bases in the Arctic.

North Pole resident Bert Somers said on Monday he would give the service a B so far. In an interview, he said he was too far from town to get cable internet from GCI.

On Monday, Somers installed his newly arrived Starlink dish on his roof. He first tested it on the snowy ground outside his home, chronicling it on his family’s YouTube video blog, “Somers in Alaska.”

Starlink internet is fast but the signal was slipping every few minutes, usually for several seconds, Somers said. He expects Starlink to improve as more satellites are deployed.

“I think it looks promising, but I don’t know if we’re firing on all cylinders at this point,” he said.

Another concern is operational limits that don’t exceed 22 below zero, per Starlink’s instructions, Somers said. Winter temperatures in Alaska may be lower than that, but he could use a small heater in the future to reheat the dish if needed, he said.

Costs are standard $600 for equipment. That’s $110 a month, cheaper than city broadband, Somers said. Once the signal is good enough, he can save money by ditching one of the two cellphone providers he and his wife, Jessica, use for slow home internet, he said.

“We don’t have a lot of other options here, so I’m very excited about that,” he said. “I think that will be the future, and it will make other internet companies consider lowering their prices if that will be their competition.”


GCI spokesperson Heather Handyside said the company believes fiber-based internet is the best way to deliver the fastest speeds and nearly unlimited data to customers. The company is actively extending fiber to other rural communities, she said.

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

Handyside said GCI also recognizes that fiber-based internet is not feasible for many of Alaska’s more remote communities. GCI is meeting with satellite providers to help it provide better service in those remote locations, she said.

“We are excited about the potential of low Earth orbit satellites to help connect the more remote regions of Alaska and are closely watching the deployment of this new technology by Starlink and other LEO-based vendors,” said she said in a prepared statement.

Handyside said the cost and speed of GCI internet plans vary depending on how internet is delivered in a location, such as fiber or microwave. Rural plans range from $60 to $300.

Rural residents often complain that the costs are much higher because they say data limits can often be exceeded quickly.

John Wallace, a technology entrepreneur in Bethel, the largest community in western Alaska, said he recently received a notification from Starlink that his equipment was on the way.

When it arrives, its internet service will be several times faster than what GCI currently provides Bethel, for a third of the price and significantly more data, he said.

Wallace and others say Starlink will greatly expand opportunities in rural Alaska, where many communities still sometimes struggle with slow connection speeds. Internet affordability and capacity will improve dramatically, significantly reducing costs for businesses, families and local governments, they say.

Wallace said Starlink will bring home a capability previously only enjoyed by the school and clinic. More people will be able to get into e-commerce, remote work, e-learning, and many other areas.

“There are very few things that we get in rural Alaska that allow us to stand on the same level as everyone else, and this is one of those things,” Wallace said.

Another low Earth orbit satellite internet service has been in place in Alaska for more than a year, via London-based OneWeb satellites, said Shawn Williams of Pacific Dataport in Anchorage.

Pacific Dataport provides this broadband internet service to select villages, Williams said.

This includes Akiak, population 500, in the Bethel area.

This internet has given families in Akiak a faster and cheaper broadband option in the village, allowing many to get broadband at home, said Mike Williams, chairman of the Akiak tribe and no tie to Shawn Williams. . He also chairs the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Tribal Broadband Consortium, which sells the OneWeb signal to many village households for $75 a month, he said.

Mike Williams said there were still problems with the signal, but he said they were rare and were being fixed quickly. Service has improved over time, he says.

“We’re seeing more and more people fixing appliances through YouTube,” said Mike Williams. “We see opportunities for economic development, like people selling furs and artwork. Kids are using it for education, and we have Zoom capabilities. And hopefully when we have issues health, we can get this information online about what’s going on with our health.”

Early next year, Pacific Dataport also plans to launch its own high-tech satellite, the Aurora 4A, to provide satellite service across Alaska, Shawn Williams said.


In other efforts, the federal government has awarded about $700 million to businesses and tribes for new internet programs, with a focus on expanding the skeletal fiber optic backbone in the state, according to reports. Alaska Broadband Office officials.

This will extend broadband to approximately 80 more Alaskan communities in the coming years. Communities are now considered underserved or unserved because they lack access to high-speed internet.

Much of the federal money comes from the massive bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year.

The state broadband office, newly created this year, also plans to secure more federal funds to bring broadband to even more villages, said Thomas Lochner, the office’s director.

“We have a very strong opportunity within the state to bridge the digital divide,” Lochner said. “With the transformational amounts of funding the federal government is providing the state to connect all of these communities, within the next 10 years, I predict that 100% of Alaska’s communities will be connected to a robust broadband system.”

GCI is part of a partnership that received $73 million to provide fiber optic cable to Bethel and several other villages, reaching more than 10,000 people in Southwest Alaska. This is just one of the projects receiving federal funding.

It is expected to be in service in Bethel in 2024, followed by other communities, Handyside said.

Shawn Williams said fiber in Alaska is very expensive to deliver per household, especially compared to the new satellite internet.

“When we use fiber it’s not cheap, and when we use satellite broadband it’s much more cost effective and deployment is also much faster, without environmental impact studies,” said- he declared.

Fiber-based service won’t reach new villages for a few years or more, Akiak’s Mike Williams said. That means satellite broadband is the best option for many villages right now, whether through OneWeb or SpaceX satellites, he said.

“It was wonderful to have broadband internet over the past year,” he said.

©2022 Alaska Dispatch News, distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

#Starlink #satellite #internet #service #live #Alaska

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *