Certain residents in Carlton County are signing up and being selected for testing phases of a new internet service, Starlink, though the service's "Better than Nothing Beta" program.
Starlink is a recent venture of SpaceX chief operating officer Elon Musk and is designed to provide fast and proficient internet to people living in all areas, according to the Starlink website.
While the service is not yet widely available, it is in initial beta testing phases, which means people in select areas can sign up and be chosen to install the service.
Currently it is only available to the northern tiers of states, according to Thomson Town Board supervisor Jason Paulson, who was recently selected to test Starlink in the Esko area.
While Paulson has not yet had Starlink installed at his residence, he said he's excited about the opportunity and hopes to see an official rollout of the service in the next two years.
According to its website, Starlink beta users can expect data speeds ranging from 50 megabits per second to 150 Mbps and latency from 20 milliseconds to 40 ms, with brief periods of zero connectivity. The "Better than Nothing Beta" program title is meant to lower customer expectations, as the service is still developing.
“It really could be a game changer for internet,” Paulson said.
Starlink antennas have an initial installation fee of $500 dollars, according to Paulson, with a monthly charge of $100.
As a town representative, Paulson said he has kept an ear open for opportunities to solve the “internet riddle” of Carlton County and he thinks Starlink may be a solution.
In the future, he hopes to have grants available through government units to help front the initial costs of antenna installation for the community.
Starlink satellites are currently being launched into space, with each one weighing approximately 573 pounds.
A 2019 National Geographic article addressed possible downsides to Starlink, including effects on astrology and Earth’s orbital environment. According to the article, the launching of Starlink satellites may cause an overly crowded orbital area around the planet.
A section of the Starlink website touches on this issue, claiming that Starlink meets all of the standards.