The pandemic has made good internet access more important than ever, with school closures and changes between in-person and remote learning. As classes get moved online, both teachers and students are having to adapt and work with the internet that’s available to them. If you live in a location where internet access isn’t an issue that makes the transition to online learning much easier. For some that live rural, having sufficient internet for online learning may not have been an option; until Elon Musk’s Starlink.
What Is Starlink And How Does It Work?
SpaceX Starlink internet service uses hundreds of satellites in low earth orbit (LEO) to provide low-latency, high-speed internet service to rural and remote locations.
Starlink is making it possible for those in rural and remote locations to access high-speed internet at a reasonable cost. Demand is so strong that wait times to purchase and receive services can be very long.
Starlink is a no-contract, unlimited satellite internet provider.
Users are required to pay a one-time upfront fee for the Starlink kit; in Ontario, Canada this was CAD$806.82. This included the dish, wifi router, power supply, cables, mounting tripod, and shipping. After that, there’s a flat monthly fee of CAD$145.77.
Remote Learning With Starlink
Prior to Starlink we were using an LTE connection which provided adequate service, but it was very costly. When we first installed Starlink in March of 2021, our then 5-year-old son was at home doing remote learning. We were excited to switch over to Starlink and start bringing down our monthly internet costs.
Starlink was in beta testing at the time and we experienced daily interruptions (usually only seconds at a time). Having intermittent to no signal became frustrating for our son. His classes would freeze or he would miss his turn due to a momentary drop. Eventually, we were using the LTE back-up daily.
In January 2022 after the winter break, all students in Ontario elementary schools were switched to remote learning. This time the overall Starlink internet connection was almost perfect, with only a single instant that really stood out. There was one day when Starlink had a worldwide outage that lasted approximately 1 hour, during this time we used our LTE backup. It was reported that the disruption to service was due to the release of 46 low orbit satellites the day prior which caused outages across the network. Thankfully a long period of connection loss doesn’t occur often.
Connecting Rural & Remote Communities
The available internet options in rural locations might not be great or good enough for remote learning and can be very expensive. We were fortunate to have a good LTE connection with Rogers. When we first moved to our current location we used Bell and the LTE was poor. The DSL we used was Xplornet which was basically worse than nothing 😜. So much so that they contacted us offering to half the cost of their service and we still cancelled on the spot. We know of many people who live rural and have poor cell phone connections and their only choice for the internet is Xplornet. Some of them are still waiting for Starlink service (hang in there guys!).
As we continue further into this pandemic, and as the numbers continue to rise we can anticipate more school closures and remote learning. Starlink continues to improve and therefore we can expect an improvement each time we are switched back to remote learning.
If you are interested to learn more about our experience using Starlink, check it out here.