Ottawa

Eastern Ontarians get a pricey taste of high-speed internet with Elon Musk's Starlink

Rural Canadians like Darren Boss have signed up for Starlink, the new internet service provided by Elon Musk's U.S.-based SpaceX firm, in the hopes of finally having access to a reliable, high-speed connection.

'I feel lucky that we could afford to get the service'

Darren Boss invested $800 into a Starlink satellite dish after struggling with slow internet speeds for years. (Submitted by Darren Boss)

It might be more expensive, but to get rid of his shoddy internet, it's a price Darren Boss is willing to pay.

Three years ago, Boss and his wife moved from Ottawa to just outside Perth, Ont., and until recently they'd been dealing with spotty, unreliable internet — a problem facing countless rural Canadians, and a big obstacle for the couple given they both work in IT.

They'd often have to schedule their video work meetings so they weren't competing at the same time for a reliable connection. Boss said they tried several providers and had the same experience every time.

That's why the pair decided to sign up for Starlink, the new pricey high-speed internet service provided by Elon Musk's U.S.-based SpaceX firm, which was recently approved by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

The service is available to select users for "beta testing," with the promise of wider availability this year. Boss received his satellite dish a few weeks ago and said so far, the results have been promising.

"I changed the way I did some of my job just because of how slow the upload speeds were and now I don't have to make those compromises anymore," Boss said.

Boss paid $800 for the satellite dish equipment alone, and $150 a month for the service itself.

"I feel pretty grateful to have this opportunity," he said. "And I feel lucky that we could afford to get the service."

Elon Musk's SpaceX firm has promised Starlink internet will provide 'near global coverage of the populated world' in 2021. (Hannibal Hanschke/Pool via REUTERS)

Potential game-changer

North Grenville, Ont., Mayor Nancy Peckford has been a long-time advocate of better internet access for rural municipalities and said Starlink is a potential game-changer.

Connectivity standards from CRTC include speeds of 50 Mbps download/10 Mbps upload for fixed broadband services. At those speeds, multiple members of a household should be able to stream, download and upload with no concerns

According to Peckford, however, recent tests in her community showed speeds significantly "below the CRTC minimum rate."

"It's very, very distressing. I mean, you're looking at upload [and] download speeds that are a fifth of what you might see in an urban area," she said.

Still seeking other investments

While Starlink isn't "necessarily affordable" for those it was made for, Peckford said that "desperate times sometimes require desperate measures."

She said a handful of North Grenville residents have signed up with Starlink, and the town is watching the results very closely.

Despite Starlink's availability, North Grenville and other nearby municipalities are still working with the provincial and federal governments, Peckford said, on other infrastructure investments.

"I don't think it's the end all, be all," she said. "But I would also suggest that many of our residents are welcoming it, and our businesses, with open arms — and rightly so."

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