A battle for space Internet in Alaska is brewing as more companies jockey for the right to deliver satellite broadband to residents, in part to bridge the digital divide between villages and cities.
(TNS) — A battle for space internet in
Starlink, a subsidiary of
Rural Alaskans who are paying $99 to get in line say the broadband service will be revolutionary, replacing the slow, clunky internet they now receive, with its sky-high costs.
But Starlink has competitors, and companies involved in similar efforts, including
Starlink, Amazon's Kuiper Systems and OneWeb, owned partly by the
OneWeb, Kuiper Systems and other Starlink competitors have told the
Starlink declined to comment for this article.
The proposals could bring "broadband equality" to rural
Wallace signed up for Starlink last week, shortly after the opportunity became available. He said many rural Alaskans are forced to use the internet sparingly, and sometimes not at all, because costs can run higher than $500 a month.
Data caps lower the price, but can be too restrictive, he said.
"Out here you have to pick and choose how you use the internet," Wallace said. "If you use it for entertainment, you can't use it for work, because it's so costly. And it's worse in villages."
"It will be so exciting when people can just watch a movie, take a class, do some office work at home," he said.
Feds limit how many satellites Starlink can deploy, for now
Starlink plans deliver broadband to households and businesses for $99 per month, plus $549 in equipment and shipping, according to its website.
Starlink has already deployed more than 1,000 satellites, and provides the broadband to about 10,000 people in the
But the agency in January declined to approve Starlink's request to deploy 58 polar-orbiting satellites, a step toward its plan of delivering service in "high latitude geographic areas," such as
The agency, however, did allow Starlink to deploy 10 polar-orbiting satellites to test and develop the service. The partial grant of Starlink's request gives the agency time to consider the arguments raised against Starlink's proposal, the agency said in filings.
Starlink has also proposed to use lasers to communicate between satellites and reduce the number of ground stations needed,
Starlink has a long way to go to meet its
Williams said Pacific Dataport welcomes the competition.
"(But) anyone sending in $99 needs to know that legally, Starlink can't serve
Williams said Starlink has applied with the
"It can be surmised that
"We are watching this closely because it's really a new technology," she said.
Handyside said about 80% of Alaskans, such as
GCI plans to keep working to improve connectivity in those areas, she said. Toward that goal, GCI later this year plans to provide fast, fiber-based broadband internet to
Pacific Dataport, founded by
Unlike Starlink, it plans to sell broadband in wholesale amounts, such as to telecommunications companies or tribal entities that can then sell the service to individuals, he said. It can also be sold to large consumers like school districts and hospitals. The company has already signed some contracts with wholesale customers, he said.
"The market demand has been healthy," Williams said.
A potential 'game changer,' says an UtqiaÄ¡vik music teacher
Pacific Dataport plans to sell OneWeb's capacity. OneWeb has already launched more than 100 satellites, and plans to launch hundreds more to serve regions globally. To deliver broadband in
OneWeb, emerged from bankruptcy in November, plans to deliver broadband to Alaskans this summer, Williams said.
OneWeb, recently emerged from bankruptcy in November, has committed to delivering service in
Both OneWeb and Pacific Dataport are permitted to deliver service in
Late this year, Pacific Dataport plans to launch the first of its own two satellites, part of what it calls the Aurora Network. The second will be launched in 2023, or earlier, he said.
The technology will be next-generation, he said. But, as with more traditional satellites, they will remain positioned high above the equator. The two satellites will also provide fast, broadband internet to
The OneWeb and Pacific Dataport broadband systems will complement each other, he said.
But he paid $99 for Starlink because it has already exceeded expectations outside of
"This is a game changer," he said of Starlink.
In December, Calderwood sent a letter to the
Calderwood told the agency that the high cost of internet service is why nearly all the school's 700 students aren't taking music courses during the pandemic — many families can't afford the online instruction after the school canceled in-person classes.
"In our town UtqiaÄ¡vik,
"Since hearing about
(c)2021 the Alaska Dispatch News (Anchorage, Alaska). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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