Starlink Internet Won’t Save Rural Canada – But Fibre Might

If you’re struggling with spotty internet (or none at all) in the wake of COVID-19, Starlink Internet can feel like an answer to a prayer. While Starlink can’t beat out the fibre experience, at least you can get connected quickly. If you can afford Starlink’s hefty fees and need internet right away, the option might be worth pursuing. But don’t stop there! Keep pushing for fibre for your community.

Why? Well, Starlink provides much-needed home internet access for some individuals, but if you want your entire rural community to thrive, satellite internet isn’t the answer. In today’s blog, we’ll examine some of rural Canada’s pressing problems and consider how community-owned fibre networks enable healthcare, education, and economic solutions that Starlink never will.

Fibre Networks Support Rural Healthcare

If you live in a small, rural municipality, you or someone you know has likely experienced the challenge of accessing healthcare. Perhaps you’ve travelled hours just to be seen by someone who can treat you. Perhaps you do that regularly! Highly experienced healthcare specialists rarely reside in small communities, but you and your neighbours deserve access to the same level of care as Canadians in urban centres.

Similarly, the demand for mental health specialists is outpacing the care available in rural communities as the pandemic takes a toll on people’s mental health. With telehealth technologies, you can connect with providers anywhere.

Starlink Internet may let those who can afford pricy internet access some in-home telehealth services, but blips in satellite service can end the call and make virtual appointments untenable. Furthermore, those who cannot afford Starlink will remain without critical healthcare services.

Community-owned networks, however, can increase healthcare opportunities for all. With fibre, local doctors can provide telehealth services in their offices to connect patients with specialists, regardless of whether or not that patient pays for at-home internet.

Researchers are calling broadband access a “super-determinant” of health, and only a community-wide network can deliver community-wide health benefits.

Fibre Networks Support Education

When COVID-19 forced schools to go virtual, families with at-home internet found it extremely challenging. Families without it? Well, they found it nearly impossible.

The disparity in access to education thrust the digital divide into the spotlight, but research shows that students with at-home internet had distinct advantages even before the pandemic. Students with broadband access at home can interact with teachers after school, conduct independent research online, and access supplementary academic resources.

If Starlink is your community’s only option for internet, even those students with Starlink at home will suffer. That’s because most teachers won’t assign homework that requires the internet unless they know all their students have a way to complete that homework. This may minimize a digital divide within a single classroom but only as the whole class or school is held back together.

On the other hand, if your community has a fibre network, schools, libraries, and community centres can provide internet access and “homework hotspots” for students who may not have internet at home. Community networks make it possible for every student in your municipality to increase their capacity to learn and grow together.

Fibre Networks Support Economic Growth

The combination of pandemic-related closures and increased options for remote work has led many Canadians to leave crowded urban centres for more rural communities. Despite the benefits these municipalities offer, many rural economies continue to struggle.

Just recently, we considered how Newfoundland and Labrador’s precariously oil-dependent economy could benefit from broadband access – but most of those benefits will remain out of reach if that access is confined to Starlink’s services. Individual at-home internet access may allow one person here or there to work remotely, but only a community-wide fibre network can:

  • Attract Residents – The highly-paid remote workers leaving urban centres may find rural communities attractive, but they can only relocate to places with reliable, high-speed internet to power their work. The real estate sector continues to see a growing demand for homes with fibre connectivity.
  • Attract Businesses – Your rural community may have the space to attract new industries, but land and tax benefits are no longer enough to attract businesses. Most bigger companies know they need reliable internet to operate efficiently, and Starlink Internet simply won’t suffice.
  • Enable Competition – With an open-access network model, you don’t just attract You create them. New, local internet service providers can open and employ community members, and the competition will fuel better prices and subscriber experiences for your residents.
  • Fuel Overall Improvements – Fibre networks can improve local cell service, enable a state-of-the-art communications network for public safety workers, and give your community access to current and future technologies for smart cities. Starlink simply can’t.

Then there’s the direct economic benefit of a revenue-generating network in your community. If your municipality has 1,000 homes, an internet service priced at $100/month could generate $12 million in revenue across ten years. Even if you drop take rates to a realistic 60%, you’re still looking at $7.2 million in revenue over the next decade. Then, there are the extra millions of add-on services like phone or TV could generate.

If Starlink provides your internet, those millions of dollars will leave your community and go to the United-States (and Elon Musk’s bank account). If big Canadian telcos connect your community, those millions are diverted to urban centres. However, if your municipality owns your network, that money can stay in your community and stimulate your local economy.

Help Your Community Thrive with Fibre

If you’ve been following our rural broadband blogs, perhaps you remember the cautionary tale of the digital divide within Canada’s urban areas. Without equal access to broadband services, low-income and marginalized communities who can’t afford highly-priced internet fall behind – even in areas where the services are available.

Rural municipalities that rely on outside companies like Starlink to solve their connectivity issues will soon face the same issues and divides within their own communities. But if your community bands together to build a fibre network, you can ensure no one is left behind. You can find community-wide solutions for community-wide problems, and everyone who calls your municipality home can survive and thrive – together.

Building a community-owned fibre network doesn’t have to be overwhelming or difficult. We’re here to counsel you through the process, help you explore your options, and ensure you find a solution that will work for decades to come.

The first step is easy. Simply call 1.877.721.7070 or email to schedule your free consultation today.

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