The Hohe tribe consists of 28 houses on a road on the edge of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Just like in many rural areas in the United States, surfing the Internet here has always been a daunting task. Some homes have a wired Internet connection, but the download speed is very slow-almost not enough to watch YouTube videos. Others rely on incomplete cellular services.
Over the years, community members have been pleading with telecommunications companies to provide better Internet services for their tribes. But for these companies, it makes no financial sense to invest in wires and towers to serve the 100 or so people living on the reservation, which is about a 30-minute drive from the nearest town.
Then the pandemic broke out in early 2020. The Hoh tribe’s meetings, courses, and government services have moved online, just like most other people in the United States have done, but most tribe members cannot force the switch to digital—they may fall further behind. “Our young people can’t download courses, or even homework, so this is one of the main drivers, for example,’well, we need to go online as soon as possible’,” said Melvinjohn Ashue, a former member of Hoh Tribe’s. Council.
So the tribe decided to try something new. It turns to outer space.
Hoh Tribe is participating in a beta test called Internet Service Provider Starlink. This is a project Space Exploration Technology Corporation, A company that aims to eventually send people to Mars. According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Starlink’s goal is to transmit high-speed Internet from space to the most remote places in the world.
Although this project is still being tested- mixed Comment— Starlink has attracted a lot of attention in Washington, DC, when the government is willing to spend taxpayers’ money on infrastructure and take risks on new broadband deployment methods.
In 2018, the US Federal Communications Commission approved Starlink to send 12,000 Starlink satellites Get into orbit.And in 2020, the company won Nearly 900 million U.S. dollars The taxpayer’s money goes through something called Rural Digital Opportunity Fund-A federal program deployed during the pandemic to help connect rural areas in the country.
But one Recent survey It was discovered that the FCC had mismanaged the fund. At least 10% of its initial US$9.2 billion (including part of Starlink’s winning bid) was not used to serve rural America, but to densely populated urban areas—even for projects including airports, parking lots, and highways median. In July, the FCC recognized The fund is poorly managed. And this institution, now under its new leadership, Ask the company Refund the money that is not used to contact people who need it.
Determining the mistakes made by the FCC Rural Fund would ideally ensure that taxpayers’ money is better spent in the future. In the next few years, we are likely to see unprecedented amounts of funds used to connect Americans.Last month, the U.S. Senate voted Pass a landmark infrastructure bill including $65 billion Provide funding for broadband expansion.
This money alone will not solve the problem. It needs to reach the right people and invest in technology that can reliably provide fast Internet in the next few years. Although space-based Internet is currently receiving widespread attention, it is still unclear what role the technology will play in solving the national broadband problem. But it is clear that Starlink has a place at the negotiating table.
Jessica RosenworthyThe acting chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said that when connecting to Americans, all options should be considered, including Starlink’s extraterrestrial option. She said: “We should be open to all technologies that can help provide broadband quickly, and this is definitely one of them.”