As Starlink launched 58 satellites into the sky Aug. 18, many watched, hoping the project could soon bring better internet service to remote communities.
Haliburtonians too are following Starlink, a project under SpaceX launching hundreds of satellites to bring high-speed internet to locations difficult to reach by conventional means. The U.S.-based company said it is targeting service in the northern U.S. and Canada by the end of this year, with public beta-testing to launch this fall.
Eagle Lake resident Ioana Zemi said local internet services cannot provide her with standard service. She said she sees Starlink as a solution for people such as her in remote residences.
“It’s really beneficial in situations like mine, where we live, where people are spaced so far apart,” Zemi said. “The infrastructure requirements are far less than if they were to put in fibre.”
Starlink is applying for a basic international telecommunications service licence with the CRTC, which is still ongoing. The application received more than 2,000 responses.
“Many of the comments noted the urgency of additional broadband options for consumers and locations that either have limited broadband choice now or no connectivity whatsoever,” wrote SpaceX satellite government affairs vice-president Patricia Cooper in a reply to the CRTC July 17. “This outpouring of support is particularly gratifying.”
The County of Haliburton and Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) are also eyeing large-scale internet improvements through public-private partnerships. The County is applying for a grant with Bell and Xplornet to deliver more broadband to areas of need, while EORN is proposing a $1.6 billion project to bring gigabyte-speed service.
But Haliburton Lake resident Joe Mukherjee said he is more optimistic about Starlink and its timeframe to be running by the end of the year. A former telecommunications worker, he said he needs internet for work and has struggled with slow internet speeds under Bell. He said that is caused by their refusal to spend the $500,000 necessary to upgrade the area pedestal congested with too many customers.
“My confidence is, shall we say shaky, that Bell is going to take this and treat it with the urgency I feel it deserves,” Mukherjee said. “Conversely, Starlink has already launched a substantial amount of satellites … I will happily move my services to them.”
Bell said it is expanding its fibre network in Haliburton but Fort Irwin is not in its immediate roll-out. They said they would work with Mukherjee on solutions in the meantime.
Starlink is not without detractors. Cooper wrote seven commentators on their application expressed concern about the impact the low-orbit satellites could have on astronomy. She said they take the problem seriously and have worked to reduce satellite visibility.
Phil Dubé said he hopes Starlink could be a better option than his slow service north of Kushog Lake. He said as a photographer, the astronomy issue is a concern, though it does not outweigh the possible benefit in his mind.
“That bothers me,” Dubé said. “But I see no opportunity for us whatsoever to have high-speed cable down County roads in Haliburton.”