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Why SpaceX Starlink Isn’t Used for Rural High Speed Internet Roll Outs by Canada

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The federal government continues to announce spending for rolling out high speed internet to all Canadians, including those in rural areas.

A recent announcement detailed the joint federal and provincial investments for high speed internet in Ontario, which included some high costs for installing fibre to rural areas up north.

Some may be wondering why a solution such as SpaceX’s Starlink internet isn’t being considered for these remote communities? Luka Vujic, Press Secretary for the Office of the Minister of Rural Economic Development, provided some insight to iPhone in Canada over the phone.

The federal government has used Starlink on occasion, mentioning usage in Manitoba, without going into specifics. But Starlink has “capacity limits in the north” and is not able to meet the demands of the government, according to Vujic, noting the satellite internet service was not always a sustainable solution.

Ottawa says its biggest priority is scalability with its rural high speed internet roll outs, and that is possible with fibre lines. Despite the high initial setup costs, service “gets cheaper” as new homes are built in rural areas. The government wants to make sure its internet infrastructure can meet future demand.

Back in December 2020, the federal government helped bring Starlink to Pikangikum First Nation, located 225 km north of Kenora, Ontario, working with SpaceX and FSET Information Technology, taking download speeds from dial-up to 130 Mbps.

Rural Economic Development also confirmed some of the high initial costs to install high speed internet in rural areas in Ontario. This included the $62.6 million for Rohl Global Networks Inc. to install high speed for 689 homes ($90,856 per home) in Aroland, Calstock (Constance Lake), Ginoogaming First Nation, Long Lake #58 First Nation and Wunnumin Lake First Nation.

The $46,637,325 cost for Keewaytinook Okimakanak to install high speed for 182 homes ($256,249.04 per location) in Fort Severn and Peawanuck (Weenusk) was also confirmed as accurate.

The federal government emphasized high speed internet should be available for all residents no matter where they reside, as part of its goal to bring access to minimum 50 Mbps downloads and 10 Mbps uploads to Canadians.

More Highlighted Funding for High Speed Internet in Ontario

On Friday, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada highlighted funding for its high speed internet roll outs in Ontario, five separate announcements. This funding is from the previously announced federal-provincial joint funding of over $1.2 billion for high speed internet, announced in July 2021.

$15 Million for 1,948 Households:

  • $11,657,792 for Mornington Communications Co-operative Limited to improve access for 1,390 households in the communities of Amulree, Crosshill, Dorking, Gads Hill, Hesson, Linwood, Lisbon, Millbank, Milverton, New Hamburg, Poole, Rostock, Shakespeare and Tavistock
  • $1,549,300 for Quadro Communications Co-Operative Inc. to improve access for 260 households in the communities of St. Pauls Station, Rannoch and Wellburn
  • $1,192,272 for Quadro Communications Co-Operative Inc. to improve access for 150 households in the communities of Dublin, Fullarton, Mitchell and Staffa
  • $1,076,972 for Quadro Communications Co-Operative Inc. to improve access for 148 households in the communities of Brodhagen, Mitchell and Rostock

$63 Million for 13,748 households:

  • $793,578 for Huron Telecommunications Co-operative Limited to improve access for 115 households in the communities of Blyth, Lucknow, St. Helens and Wingham
  • $557,025 for Huron Telecommunications Co-operative Limited to improve access for 109 households in the communities of Belgrave and Bluevale
  • $596,813 for Huron Telecommunications Co-operative Limited to improve access for 135 households in the community of St. Helens
  • $517,826 for Huron Telecommunications Co-operative Limited to improve access for 111 households in the community of Auburn
  • $2,027,878 for Huron Telecommunications Co-operative Limited to improve access for 427 households in the communities of Benmiller, Bogies Beach and Nile
  • $10,625,666 for Tuckersmith Communications Co-operative Ltd. to improve access for 1,191 households in the communities of Belgrave, Bluevale, Blyth, Brussels, Clinton, Ethel, Henfryn, Kinburn, Londesborough, Seaforth and Walton
  • $3,286,383 for Cogeco Connexion Inc. to improve access for 948 households in the communities of Clear Lake, Kearney and Novar
  • $4,758,237 for Cogeco Connexion Inc. to improve access for 696 households in the communities of Gordon Bay, Humphrey and Port Cockburn
  • $9,603,742 for Cogeco Connexion Inc. to improve access for 1,697 households in the communities of Broadbent, Dunchurch, Fairholme, Hurdville, Maple Island, McKellar and Waubamik
  • $352,850 for Vianet Inc. to improve access for 117 households in the community of Carling.
  • $30,400,000 for Bell Canada Inc. to improve access for 8,202 households in the communities of Barkway, Baysville, Bracebridge, Chippewas of Rama First Nation, Glen Echo, Glen Orchard, Golden Beach, Gravenhurst, Houseys Rapids, Kahshe Lake, Lake Dalrymple, Lakewood, Longford, Matthiasville, Milford Bay, Mortimers Point, Muskoka Beach, Muskoka Falls, Port Stanton, Scarlet Park, Severn Bridge, Southwood, Stoneleigh, Swift Rapids, Torrance, Walkers Point, Washago and Whitesidef

$51 Million for 4,086 Households:

  • $49,546,420 for Bell Canada to improve access for 3,852 households in the communities of Animakee Wa Zhing #37, Anishinabe of Wauzhushk Onigum, Anishinaabeg of Naongashiing, Barwick, Big Grassy (Big Grassy), Caliper Lake, Couchiching First Nation, Crow Lake (Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation), Devlin, Dinorwic, Eagle River, Emo, Fort Frances, Grassy Narrows First Nation, Iskatewizaagegan #39 Independent, Kenora, Lac La Croix, Migisi Sahgaigan (Eagle Lake), Minahico, Mine Centre, Morson, Northwest Angle #33, Northwest Angle #37, Northwest Bay (Naicatchewenin), Obashkaandagaang, Ochiichagwe’babigo’ining First Nation, Rainy River First Nations, Seine River First Nation, Shoal Lake #40, Sioux Narrows, Stratton, Upsala, Vermilion Bay, Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, Wabauskang First Nation, Wabigoon, Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, Whitefish Bay (Naotkamegwanning)
  • $2,312,145 to improve access for 234 households in the communities of Barwick and Rainy River

$15.5 Million for 3,659 Households:

  • $12,900,000 for Bell Canada to improve access for 2,459 households in the communities of AstorvilleBonfield, Calvin, East Ferris, Kiosk, Mattawa and Rutherglen
  • $2,590,000 for Bell Canada to improve access for 1,200 households in the communities of Batchawana BayCartierElla LakeFoleyetGlendaleIsland Lake, Northland Station, Searchmont and Trout Lake

$32 Million for 4,485 Households:

  • $32,100,000 for Bell Canada to improve access for 4,485 households in the communities of BerwickBourgetCasselmanClarence CreekCryslerCurranEmbrunHammondKenmoreLimogesMarionvilleMorewoodRiceville, Rockland, Rockland EastRussellSarsfieldSt. IsidoreVarsVernon and Wendover

Today’s announcements have resulted in $127.5 million for Bell Canada to install high speed internet for rural areas in Ontario. On top of the $173 million highlighted earlier this week, that results in over $300 million in contracts awarded to Bell Canada.

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