Starlink Internet is transforming from rural savior to unreliable luxury
When SpaceX’s residential satellite internet company Starlink was first introduced, I had high hopes. Legitimate high-speed internet is not widely available where I live in rural Kansas. For the past 11 years, I’ve had to settle for an OG Verizon data plan just for a hotspot, HughesNet satellite Internet, US cellular home Internet, local fixed wireless, T-Mobile Home Internet, and more. But as of the spring of 2021, I mainly rely on Starlink to provide the internet for my home.
Don’t get me wrong. Without Starlink, I wouldn’t have been able to cut the cord, work from home, or participate in the other modern connected amenities that I now enjoy. At first my speeds averaged between 100-150/10-25mbps and the connection rarely dropped. Coming from 3/15, if I’m lucky, this has been a life changer.
However, since I started using these low orbit satellites to power the internet, not only has the price gone up $30 per month, but speeds and reliability have deteriorated dramatically. I’ve talked to other people in my area who use Starlink, and since January we’ve experienced frequent outages and speeds fluctuating between 30-50/2-10Mbps. I am aware that Starlink states that what I am getting is within stated expectations. I can handle that if it’s consistent and reliable and also if I don’t get charged $120 a month.
Communication cost is nearing breaking point
I recently attended a town hall meeting hosted by the Kansas Office of Broadband Development, where there was a discussion about the state of the Internet in Kansas. It was surprising not to hear how shocked the hosts were that the poor state of rural broadband affected not just households but businesses. One family with a relatively large farming operation managing both livestock and crops mentioned how without a proper mobile or broadband connection, there are times when they cannot even make a phone call in the field due to a lack of connectivity. They also note how they miss out on crucial market changes because their internet is unstable at home. This isn’t just about communication; It is about the livelihood of these people.
The point of This discussion and others to be conducted by the Kansas Office of Broadband Development across the state is to get a better idea of how the situation of high-speed internet affects the rural population. Because many places, not just in Kansas, don’t have ISPs serving their homes with wired or wireless internet. Some can’t even get Starlink because it’s not available in their area or the waiting list is full.
For many areas like mine, Starlink is supposed to be a kind of savior for those deprived of terrible internet or no internet at all. In a way, Starlink is largely responsible for letting me become a full-time mobile editor. But it has always been an expensive service to buy into. If you want Starlink Internet — assuming it’s available at your address — you have to buy the device, which is $599, and after 30 days it’s non-refundable, according to it. website. Paying the $599 Starlink cost because of the price but also because I had to install the dish and wire it myself. But I didn’t have much of a choice, and had no intention of needing another provider — that was until the service started to go down and the monthly cost went up.
The bigger picture is that a service that was once, and in many cases still is, a kind of lifesaver for many areas is now just another expensive and hard-to-use ISP.
This degradation didn’t force me to go completely offline, but there were a few times I couldn’t play my video during an online meeting or failed to save online documents. Since I have to rely on Wi-Fi calling in my home due to poor cellular connectivity, I can’t even make phone calls reliably. I use apps like Telegram to call people instead, but those alternatives don’t help much when, say, the pharmacy calls to say medicine is ready for pickup; He will not contact me via Telegram.
Starlink is quickly becoming a luxury, and even if someone is willing to put up with frequent outages, there’s a good chance it can be very expensive. In its latest price increase, Starlink reported that for areas with “excess capacity,” the price has dropped to $90 per month, and for those with “limited capacity,” the cost is now $120 per month. What determines capacity is not transparent. When I started with Starlink it paid $90, then last fall it went up to $110, and now it’s $120 a month, and I don’t know why.
This forced me to look for alternative options. For the past couple of months, I’ve gone back to T-Mobile Home Internet because I can get T-Mobile for just $50 a month and because the speed and reliability are on par with what I’ve been getting from Starlink. But even getting T-Mobile into my house required some extra work and money on my part. If you can believe it, I first had to walk into the store, order a modem, and reassure them that I knew my experience might not be great because, officially, according to the T-Mobile website, the internet isn’t available at my house. I also had to buy a $400 outdoor antenna kit designed to connect directly to my router because I’m not getting good cellular signal from any US carriers in my house, and I need the boost from my antenna.
Some things never change
Despite all these problems, I still haven’t canceled my Starlink service. One of the reasons is that I don’t know if I can ever get it again. When I put my address on their website, I was told I was on a waiting list. I would like to ask the Starlink support team for more information since I have the equipment, but I can’t because there is no email address, phone number, chat, or other way to send support messages. There was once the ability to send messages to the team through the app, but that is not currently an option. I only had to reach out to the support team twice, and it was more to get an answer to questions not covered in any of the FAQs, to which the response was prompt.
There is hope that a reliable and affordable Internet will become more widespread. But it may not be with Starlink.
But I have to take a chance with Starlink because I can’t keep paying for two internet services, and I need to pay the difference in the monthly fee to offset the price of the Starlink equipment and outdoor antenna for T-Mobile Home Internet. There’s also the upside that having my own Starlink gear means I can take it with me on my camping trips and have a way to connect with the world if I need to.
Outside of my issues with Starlink, the bigger picture is that a service that was once, and still is in many cases, a kind of lifesaver for many areas is now just another expensive and hard-to-use ISP. Those I know who use Starlink have been frustrated with service struggles and price increases, leaving many looking for options from the likes of T-Mobile Home Internet or other local wireless Internet providers. Unfortunately, for more than a few, there are no other options to consider—even with affordable fare airlines. This leaves those who make a difficult decision, committing to a humiliating, expensive service in order to stay connected or regressing into a more representative realm.
With the renewed push to expand broadband coverage in my state, and I’ve seen similar efforts in other areas as well, there’s hope that reliable, affordable internet can become more widespread. But it may not be with Starlink.