Letter: Starlink is a better solution for rural broadband

I am writing in response to the county’s work to extend broadband services to remote areas, as reported in your July 4 article. While I applaud the initiative to improve internet access, I don’t understand why we would waste time and resources in this area when SpaceX/Starlink is a great solution that is readily available.  Starlink, the satellite internet service from SpaceX, is already providing high-speed internet to remote and underserved areas worldwide, including our own. With download speeds ranging from 50 Mbps to 150 Mbps and latency as low as 20 milliseconds, Starlink is a viable solution for residents lacking reliable internet.  

Having lived and worked remotely for over 30 years in areas serviced by CenturyLink and Comcast, I can tell you that SpaceX/Starlink has been such a wonderful change from the “big telco providers.” Starlink exceeds the federal definitions for high speed and is very close to always hitting Colorado’s goals for high-speed performance.

Are we just trying to utilize the two grants that we’ve already received and just trying to participate in the $1 billion grant funding for broadband that SpaceX doesn’t seem to qualify for? According to the Colorado Broadband Office, Visionary has a grant awarded for $890,000 to hook up 413 locations in our county which amounts to $2,200 a pop. Is it possible that the Colorado Broadband Office and the decision to commit $113M in capital to connect 19,000 Colorado households (~$6,000/ea) to broadband services would look wasteful if they just connected via Starlink?

In the Dotsero/Colorado River Road area, with fewer than 400 households, the finances of laying fiber-optic cables don’t make sense. Subsidizing households to use Starlink would save a considerable amount of money and provide an immediate solution. Heck, the $100,000 grant alone would pay for 50% of the $500 equipment cost for Starlink for 400 households.

By leveraging Starlink, our county, state and country can avoid the significant costs and time associated with terrestrial infrastructure in challenging terrains, dealing with telco providers that have proven to care nothing about rural areas, and end the waste of resources on rural broadband efforts. As Starlink continues to expand and improve, speeds and reliability will only increase, further bridging the digital divide. While exploring all options for enhancing broadband access is essential, recognizing and utilizing existing technologies is equally important. I urge county officials and residents to consider the benefits of Starlink and explore partnerships with SpaceX to expedite high-speed internet provision to our remote areas.

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Derrick Wiemer

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