SpaceX’s satellite broadband network has stepped up to help families in a town coping with the wildfires in Washington state. The company’s Starlink system is supplying emergency WiFi to a small town of 200 people in Malden, where approximately 80 percent of the homes have been impacted by the wildfires.
SpaceX is providing the service completely free-of-charge. “SpaceX provided seven terminals for our agency to use for free, where we saw the most need,” the state’s Emergency Management Department said to PCMag. The agency has been able to use the satellite WiFi terminals for “incident command vehicles out at the Bonney Lake, WA wildfire.”
Happy to have the support of @SpaceX’s Starlink internet as emergency responders look to help residents rebuild the town of Malden, WA that was overcome by wildfires earlier this month. #wawildfire pic.twitter.com/xUSQOjcT4T
— WA Emergency Management 😷 (@waEMD) September 28, 2020
“SpaceX has not given us a timetable on when they need the equipment back. They’ve been pretty generous,” the department added.
Glad SpaceX could help! We are prioritizing emergency responders & locations with no Internet connectivity at all.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 28, 2020
This is a wonderful gesture in SpaceX’s part, allowing the authorities to coordinate what they need to help rebuild their town without the extra burden of trying to figure out how to pay for it as well. And it’s welcome good news after Elon Musk, the leader of SpaceX, announced he’d forego a COVID-19 vaccine for him and his family, alighting controversy. Having access to reliable communication is instrumental for the Emergency Management Departments to coordinate the safety and rebuild efforts.
But the satellite WiFi is so much more for the residents who live there. The terminals are also being used for public WiFi at no cost to anyone who connects to it. For those working from home or doing virtual learning through school due to the pandemic, it allows access to continue working or doing school work when it seems like everything else is falling apart.
According to PCMag, SpaceX is planning to launch a public beta for Starlink, sometime later this year, likely for residents who have very limited, if any, access to WiFi in northern US and Canada. From there, they hope to expand the coverage to “most of the world by sometime in 2021.”
Many of us take the internet for granted, and it will be interesting to see how or if easier access for everyone will change anything.