In Odessa, Texas, the Ector County Independent School District (ECISD) has announced that thousands of families living in the area will receive free internet access from the Starlink satellite system from SpaceX. It is anticipated that families will get internet access from Starlink sometime in early 2021.
The ECISD announced in a press release that it is the first school district to take advantage of the benefits of the satellite constellation SpaceX, which is intended to provide secure network access to places that can not be serviced by traditional internet service providers. The ECISD noted that next year 45 families will initially get the free service, and another 45 will follow once the network capabilities of Starlink expand.
The school district will decide the families who will obtain free Internet access.
“Ector County ISD is the first school district in the United States to work with SpaceX in harnessing its Starlink satellite constellation to deliver high-speed, low-latency Internet access for ECISD students. The project will initially provide free Internet service to 45 families in the Pleasant Farms area of south Ector County. The school district will identify the families and facilitate delivery of the necessary equipment to those homes. The service will be active early in 2021. As the network capabilities continue to grow, it will expand to serve an additional 90 Ector County families,” the press release noted.
Dr. Scott Muri, ECISD Superintendent of Schools, is optimistic about the free Internet access that Elon Musk’s private space business would offer. Starlink should allow the county to take a step towards closing the digital divide that still exists today, resulting in some students not having access to the world-wide web.
School officials noted that during the pandemic, this problem became apparent, especially when students had to transition to remote learning. A study by district officials showed that about 39 percent of families in the region had no internet access whatsoever.
“This innovative partnership represents bold and unprecedented action for our school district and our community. Our research clearly indicates the lack of broadband access is a crisis in Ector County. In collaboration with SpaceX, we are providing space-based Internet service to students and families that have few, if any, options. The partners with us share our vision for equity and access for all students. Today, we take a giant leap forward in closing the digital divide that exists within our community,” he said.
An invitation-only public beta for Starlink was launched by SpaceX. Pricing for the system includes a fee of $499 for the phased array antenna and a monthly fee of $99 for internet access, at least for the beta. Internet speeds are expected to be between 50 Mbps to 150 Mbps for the software that SpaceX lightly calls the “Better than Nothing” beta.
You can read the press release from ECISD about Elon Musk’s free Starlink program for families in Ector County below.
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