A Native American tribe in a remote part of Washington has been “catapulted into the 21st century” after getting SpaceX’s Starlink internet.
The Hoh Tribe, which is based on the Pacific coast, roughly 23 miles south of the town of Forks, said on Twitter this week it was now receiving a high-speed connection from the constellation of satellites blasted into orbit by Elon Musk’s company.
“What a difference high-speed internet can make. Our children can participate in remote learning, residents can access healthcare. We felt like we’d been paddling up-river with a spoon… SpaceX Starlink made it happen overnight,” it tweeted Wednesday.
Starlink is an ongoing SpaceX project creating a global network of satellites capable of beaming broadband internet to areas with unreliable or unavailable access.
Earlier this week, as the company shot 60 more satellites into space onboard a Falcon 9 rocket, Musk teased tests in the U.S. and Canada were closer than ever. The company said “near-global coverage of the populated world” could be reached by 2021.
While not for the wider public, some trials have begun. Responding to the Hoh tribe’s tweet this week, the billionaire SpaceX boss wrote back: “You’re most welcome!”
Youâre most welcome!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 7, 2020
It remains unclear what speed the tribe was now receiving from Starlink, but it revealed in a separate tweet that its previous capacity had been between 0.3 and 0.7 megabits per second (Mbps). For context, SpaceX has previously said its Starlink tests showed “super low latency and download speeds greater than 100 Mbps,” which is enough to “stream multiple HD movies at once and still have bandwidth to spare.”
The director of the Washington Department of Commerce State Broadband Office, Russ Elliott, said in a video uploaded to YouTube that his division had introduced the tribe to SpaceX after it raised concerns about limited internet during COVID-19.
“It seemed like out of nowhere SpaceX came up and just catapulted us into the 21st century,” Melvinjohn Ashue, vice chairman of the Hoh tribe, said in the video.
“Our youth are able to do education online [and] participate in videos. Telehealth is no longer going to be an issue, as well as tele-behavioral health, tele-mental health.”
The Starlink partnership comes after the Washington Emergency Management Division said on Twitter in September that first responders working to restore a town ravaged by fast-moving wildfires earlier that month had been given free satellite access.
It wrote: “Malden is an area where fiber and most of the town burned down. Without this equipment, it would have been much harder for folks to get internet in that area.”
Lisa Brown, director of the Washington State Department of Commerce agency, said in a statement this week: “The Hoh Tribe is not alone, many people in rural parts of our state don’t have high-speed internet connectivity, but we’re changing that.
“We’re helping create partnerships and find resources so every community in our state can access this critical bridge to jobs, education, healthcare and so much more.”
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