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To help close the digital divide, SpaceX will offer satellite internet to the education sector.
The company’s Starlink satellite internet service is partnering with a school district in Texas to supply free broadband to dozens of families living in the surrounding rural area, starting in early 2021. It’s the first time SpaceX has worked with a school district to harness Starlink, according to the Ector County Independent School District, which announced the partnership on Tuesday.
The school district plans on first supplying the high-speed internet to 45 families who live in rural Pleasant Farms, before expanding it to 90 families. According to local media outlet Odessa America, the project will cost $300,000, with half of the funds coming from education advocacy group Chiefs for Change.
“Our research clearly indicates the lack of broadband access is a crisis in Ector County,” said Scott Muri, the school district’s superintendent, in a statement.
The district—located west of Dallas, Texas—needs the broadband access to enable online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused schools across the country to shut down or cap the number of students in physical classrooms. According to the district’s own surveys, 39 percent of the families have limited or no internet access.
SpaceX’s Starlink is promising to fill the gap. The company’s system is currently capable of delivering 100Mbps download speeds at a latency of around 30 milliseconds, which is on par with ground-based internet.
Interestingly, SpaceX is bringing the satellite internet to Texas, a US state in the lower latitudes. Currently, the company is promising to start a public beta for Starlink soon, but in the higher latitudes for locations in northern U.S. and southern Canada.
However, by early 2021, SpaceX is expected to have launched additional satellites into orbit to power the Starlink network, enabling it to improve the broadband coverage. As of today, Starlink operates over 800 satellites, but the goal is to eventually have thousands more in orbit. The company is planning to launch the satellite internet system worldwide to consumers next year, although the cost remains unknown at this point.
Still, the Ector County Independent School District is hopeful Starlink will prove to be a “permanent solution” capable of addressing the broadband woes across the state.
This article originally published at PCMag