June 1, 2021
Germany plans to fast track rural Internet access by subsidizing low earth orbit (LEO) satellite Internet hardware systems for users who sign up for Elon Musk's Starlink, according to a Reuters report quoting the German transport ministry.
Other operators who provide wireless Internet to rural areas are also eligible to take part in the scheme, according to the ministry, although the details are still being hammered out. The handout can only be applied to kit purchases.
"The monthly costs for using the Internet connection will not be covered by the grant," said the ministry.
Handelsblatt gave more details, stating the subsidy will be worth €500 ($611) per kit, adding that the plan was a result of a meeting between Elon Musk and German transport minister Andreas Scheuer at the construction site of Tesla's first European factory near Berlin in mid-May.
Star light, star bright
With a network of almost 1,000 LEO satellites orbiting the Earth and many more to come, Starlink currently offers beta access satellite Internet for a monthly fee of €99 – with Musk announcing on Star Wars Day (May 4) that SpaceX had already received more than 500,000 preorders for the service.
This isn't the first government subsidy the company has secured to drive rollout.
The US government is allocating $856 million to SpaceX via a new program on offer from the Federal Communications Commission to bring broadband to remote areas. Vast regions of the country are classified as rural – areas where three out of five people say access to broadband is still a problem.
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SpaceX won the funding despite being up against established service providers like Charter Communications and CenturyLink.
The company is also in talks with the UK government about being part of the £5 billion ($6.9 billion) Project Gigabit plan to connect rural areas - which, if selected, could make SpaceX eligible for government funding.
Love it or hate it
Despite some reports of patchy connectivity and unreliability, the company claims to have logged download speeds clocking in at over 100 Mbit/s, with low latency, in early tests.
It remains divisive, like its founder Elon Musk, the Marmite of the tech world. There are those that don't believe the service will ever be financially viable, let alone pay for Musk's Mars colonization plans – or those that take issue with the horizon being filled with thousands of competing pieces of future space junk. And there are the SpaceX and Starlink fanboys, a group that makes the Apple fandom look frankly amateur (and would probably give the BTS ARMY a run for their money).
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