How StarLink is Giving the Rural and Poor Internet Access
StarLink or 5G could be the technological revolution that closes the internet speed gap that rural communities face. Such communities often lack the broadband infrastructure that allows lightning internet speed found in big cities. Slow internet speeds are primarily due to the lack of state investment in small towns and cities. State governors often implement a policy that discourages larger budgets that is needed to build broadband infrastructure. This lack of funding has devastated small cities leaving them with a crumbling infrastructure and often slow internet speeds.
Both 5G and Elon Musk’s StarLink internet satellites may solve this internet speed gap. With studies showing that Americans are more interested in StarLink than 5G, what could power the future internet accessibility of rural America?
SpaceX’s StarLink satellite internet isn’t new and, if you grew up in the 90s, you’ve probably already heard of it. However, like all technology, the first few iterations of satellite internet were unpopular. Satellite internet back then was slower than broadband connections and more expensive. Satellite internet, at that time, was known as the worst alternative due to high latency and data-caps. That was in the 90s. Since then, the technology has evolved, becoming cheaper and better with time. The new iteration of satellite internet is better and solves most of the problems that plagued previous generations.
Issues like low-latency and frequent “disconnections” are being addressed by Space X’s StarLink but, unfortunately, many outstanding issues remain. StarLink doesn’t solve the data-cap problem which is the most pressing issue that many have with satellite internet. Also, StarLink can’t avoid the issues satellite internet face when an area is impacted by a natural disaster, i.e., heavy rainfall, or too many users on it at the same time. These issues will remain with StarLink. Space X has stated that they are only targeting small communities that have 1,000-10,000 people and at areas that aren’t prone to natural disasters. These flaws could limit StarLink’s outreach making the service not reliable enough for many living in small cities throughout the U.S.A.
How is 5G better?
5G’s issue is the number of antennas needed for the technology to work in highly density cities. Implementing the technology is convenient—just one antenna could serve 3,000-10,000 people at once. However, in smaller communities, there will have to be multiple antennas to cover the total area of the population, increasing the costs dramatically. Also, 5G is slightly more expensive than a regular broadband connection or Space X’s proposed StarLinks. It might take years or even a decade before 5G becomes cheap enough to be used in rural communities. There are also on-going conspiracy theories that could impact the rollout of 5G telecommunications in rural communities. These theories thrive within these communities where there is more trust in Elon Musk than 5G technology.
Who will win 5G or StarLink?
5G and Space-X’s satellite internet offers the high-speed internet rural communities throughout the country have been demanding. Whoever wins the scramble for these rural communities will not only change many lives but also bring some form of internet equality to people who deserve it the most.