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SpaceX Starlink Beta, Phase Two

The app screenshot for Starlink public beta is made available for iOS and Android devices.

According to an email, Starlink has moved into the second phase of its beta program, nicknamed the "better than nothing beta," which feels a bit like monopoly hubris to me. It may be better than nothing, but it is not as good as the initial beta, which was free. Participants will pay $99 per month for the service and pay $499 for a terminal, including a tripod and WiFi router. I wonder what the difference is between these "beta testers" and "customers."

SpaceX warns that data speeds will vary from 50 to 150 Mb/s and latency from 20 to 40 ms, and service may be intermittent at times, but performance will improve as more satellites are launched. I'm not sure of the service area, but I had applied to be informed when service would be available at a home around 34.4 degrees north, and I was not invited.

They have also created apps to guide users through the process of plugging the terminal in and pointing it to the sky. As you see here, one must avoid trees or other obstructions, which can be problematical in mountainous or forested areas. One downside to Starlink and other low-earth orbit constellations may be that they will discourage fiber deployment in wooded and mountain areas.

Finally, here is a link to the terms of service. In particular, pay attention to the Governing Law section. It foreshadows Starlink connectivity to a constellation of satellites orbiting the moon (and why not the International Space Station?) as well as establishing Mars as a free planet "that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over." I don't know that Elon Musk has the authority to make such a "law," but it foreshadows issues that will have to be dealt with in the future.

By Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University – He has been on the faculties of the University of Lund, Sweden and the University of Southern California, and worked for IBM and the System Development Corporation. Larry maintains a blog on Internet applications and implications at cis471.blogspot.com and follows Cuban Internet development at laredcubana.blogspot.com. Visit Page

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