Elon Musk’s Starlink gives Parry Sound – Almaguin hope for reliable internet

Originally Published by North Bay Nipissing 
Author: Sarah Cooke

ALMAGUIN — It’s a bird, it’s a plane — no, it’s a low Earth orbit satellite providing high bandwidth internet to rural Canadians.

At least, that’s what Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) founder Elon Musk hopes for his satellite internet project: Starlink.

For many who reside, or wish to reside, in the west Parry Sound and Almaguin regions, Starlink is a glimmer of hope to a broadband desert.

Shannon Degagne, 25, has lived on Clear Lake in Arnstien with her family for 10 years, and she said that the internet is extremely slow and doesn’t work most days.

“We have Xplornet, our only option where we are,” said Degagne, adding that the Canadian satellite internet provider told her family that the company had oversold their product which resulted in the irregular connectivity and the issue will not be resolved for over a year.

“It is frustrating as a dual master’s student that I often have to drive to get service on my phone to use my hotspot to submit assignments and do research,” she said. “Sometimes sitting in my car for hours.”

According to the Starlink website, the mission aims to deliver high speed internet to locations where it has normally been expensive, unreliable or unavailable.

“I think it would be great for rural communities to grow and have better (internet) access as society is so dependent and reliant on internet services,” Degagne said. “It will also really help businesses in the rural communities.”

SpaceX applied for a basic international telecommunication (BITS) licence with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on May 20 to offer Starlink services to Canadians.

When asked for an update on the status of the licence, the CRTC told this newspaper there was none at this time.

Lack of reliable internet is a deterrent for those who wish to move from the city to a rural setting, according to John Dunn, a 49-year-old Ottawa resident.

“I would love to buy a small chunk of land in an unorganized area like Port Loring, but I will be waiting until Starlink is working reliably,” said Dunn. “Being an Elon Musk company, I’m sure it will get there.”

Musk confirmed Starlink’s commitment to Canada in response to Toronto Star reporter Peter Nowak’s article about rural Canadians’ excitement for “super-fast” rural internet.

Andrew Ryeland, 68, is a part of the Smart Community Network which works to find a solution to the lack of adequate internet bandwidth for the West Parry Sound region.

When it comes to the lack of choice in of internet service providers for northern communities, Ryeland said it handicaps the area.

“All I could get was Xplornet,” he said. “And Xplornet is not good at all in terms of data caps and in terms of latency.”

Latency is the amount of time it takes from your computer to talk to the internet service provider and for them to send back a ping that they got it, said Ryeland.

Currently using Bell Wireless Internet Five, he said he pays $69.45 a month for a data cap of up to 50 gigabytes per month and his latency is about 50 to 60 milliseconds but, he added, it should be much less.

“When I go over that, it’s five dollars per gigabyte,” said Ryeland. “Which is very expensive because one movie is a gigabyte and in these times we’re doing a lot of Zoom calls — which people in the city don’t think twice about but, up here, we’re like, ‘there’s another $5 out the window.’ ”

On June 3, the Ontario government issued a press release stating that it was investing another $150 million in reliable broadband and cellular service to “help create even more economic and education opportunities in rural, remote and underserved areas of the province.”

“It’s way too little and it’s way too late. It needs to be in the neighbourhood of about $50 billion,” said Ryeland. “The real problem putting in fibre optic, which is the only solution here — unless Starlink works — is that Bell and Hydro have the monopoly on the poles. They won’t let anyone put anything on those poles unless they pay huge amounts of money. That’s how they keep out competition.”

“Hopefully, it will get better with things like Starlink, and with some more investment,” he said. “They keep rehashing their announcements of rural internet investment and $150 million is nothing.”

The next SpaceX/Starlink satellite launch is scheduled for July 8 but Canadians can sign up for beta access to Starlink via its website.

“Private beta testing is expected to begin later this summer,” according to an email those interested receive upon signing up. “You will be notified via email if beta testing becomes available in your area.”

Read original article at northbaynipissing.com.