Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet project opened for beta testing in the Parry Sound-Almaguin region early in February which saw some residents able to sign up.
For Lake Manitouwabing resident Melissa Baum, the high-speed satellite internet comes as a saviour for her business.
“We were desperate for a solution,” said Baum. “I just kept putting mine and my husband's email address into the Starlink beta page (and) the next thing you know I got an email that said it’s available so I hopped online and bought it right away.”
Before signing up with Starlink, she said her internet service provider was Bell and they had to use internet hubs.
“I think we were paying $170 for 200 gigabytes (of monthly data) and it was barely anything,” she said, adding that there were four adults and two children in the home.
“It was just so limiting especially for trying to develop my business — I had to pick and choose what kind of training I did online or what kind of things I was uploading and downloading because it would go so quick. We tried every solution to get better internet so Starlink has been a saviour.”
Before Starlink, Baum said they were seeing speeds of 2 or 3 megabits per second with the Bell internet hub and now she said their average internet speed is between 70 to 120 megabits per second.
The only issue she said she has encountered is the satellite dish needing a clear line of sight and that Starlink will go down for eight minutes a day for beta testing.
“Everything about it is easy and simple. It literally is plug it in and it works,” she said. “The app gives you a very clear indication of where you need to place it because it needs a clear view of the sky and obviously being rural and living in a forested area it is kind of an issue to figure out the exact right spot to put it.”
Over in Almaguin, South River cottager Michael Gravis said that he also signed up for the Starlink beta and he has had his equipment for two weeks.
“It’s working really well — I’m impressed even with the snow, (the satellite dish) melts the snow right off, no dropouts, no issues,” he said, mentioning that he hadn’t used an internet service provider for broadband connection at his cottage.
“We just used our data plans off our phones,” Gravis said. “It was very expensive. We didn’t actually have good cell reception either, so we had to put up one of those cell signal boosters.”
Asked if he had any recommendations for those interested in Starlink, he replied, “The first step is the app — it’s free and you can just check to see if it’s a viable solution for your current location.”
Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.
Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star