Are Rural Towns Ready for Starlink?

Earlier this week I discussed how I believe Starlink fixes the limitations of LTE better than 5G, and is primed to change the world, particularly in remote and rural landscapes.  In this sitting, I want to focus on rural towns.

With the onslaught of COVID-19 spring boarding the rapid acceleration from working from the office to working from home, many professionals are investigating what it means for them, and how best can they leave the city for more peaceful rural surroundings.  However, because working from home requires a reliable, high-speed internet connection for many of these people, many towns, including the one I operate in, are not prepared with the critical infrastructure to support the needs of these users.

Twenty years ago I designed a Fiber-to-the-Home system for our town of about 20,000.  During that time, the cost, which was estimated to be about 1/3 of what it would cost today to build, was eventually discarded.  Many believe the large Telecoms would come in and fix the problem.  They never did, anywhere.  The result is that even in 2020, almost 80% of the town is still running DSL connections that often drops during the impressive snowstorms we often get.  And yet, with COVID-19, we are seeing a phenomena we have never seen before: home buying, usually split 70% second-home-buying versus 30% primary-home-buying has been flipped on its head.  Today, over 60% of all homes bought are for primary home owners.  In addition, many of the existing second homes are being occupied as full-time residents, increasing our town’s population by almost 20%. And this is without good internet!

Now imagine, what happens when Starlink starts providing one gigabit connections with 25 millisecond latency to these homes.  The question to leave the cities and move to rural towns, like mine, is no longer a question.  If companies like Google, Facebook and others continue to insist their employees work from home indefinitely, the mass city exodus to rural environments will continue to surge.

Are rural towns ready?  To support such a large, and immediate influx of population, critical infrastructure to support this population are needed.  Roads, electricity, water, sewer, education and hospitals are needed to increase capacity.  Working in the electrical and water space, this means visioning what this means, not only in the building of these infrastructures, but redesigning technology to support this critical infrastructure expansion, as the core foundation to serving the mission.

It is not only possible, but very likely, that Starlink, as the catalyst to rural population growth, also plays a large roll in this technological redesign.  And this begins my blog next week.  What will life be like for workers in rural and desolate areas with one gigabit network speeds anywhere?  What are some of the designs we can vision to improve archeology, geology, or protecting our environment and oceans? With high-speed networking at anytime and anywhere the possibilities are endless, and it will be fun to explore some of these ideas with you.

Are you a worker looking to leave the city?  What would it take for you to be able to work from home full time?  Is technology a limiting factor?  Comment below, and start the discussion.

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