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Starlink: How Elon Musk’s satellite Internet service could benefit rural Texas

Texas

FILE – In this Dec. 1, 2020, file photo, SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives on the red carpet for the Axel Springer media award, in Berlin. (Hannibal Hanschke/Pool Photo via AP, File)

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RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO) – After almost a year of virtual interactions and seeing the palpable limitations of our current broadband infrastructure, a once envisioned option for Internet service is getting closer to becoming a reality.  

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Elon Musk’s satellite broadband company, Starlink, is making strides towards providing internet service in the areas where it has not been an option.

On Monday, the Starlink website opened a preorder option for people wishing to use the internet service. 

The concept for Starlink is placing a network of satellites, with numbers in the tens of thousands, in Earth’s orbit to provide every area with a low latency internet service.  

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Because the satellites would be 60 times closer to the earth than the satellites that are already providing a similar service, the speed at which information is transmitted would increase.  

Over 900 satellites have been placed into orbit and the service is being beta tested.  

ValleyCentral spoke to Cybersecurity Consultant and Expert, Neal Bridges, about what Starlink could offer areas with poor connectivity and potential issues that could arise with the service.  

If the pandemic proved anything it was that internet connection is important for our everyday lives.  

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From leisurely activities to advancing education, a reliable connection could mean the difference between being informed and not.  

“When you look at internet access, there’s 7.8 billion but not all of those 7.8 billion people have access to information that allows them to potentially improve their quality of life,” said Bridges.  

Many in various parts of the Rio Grande Valley can attest to that. During the start of the pandemic when students were sent to learn from home, many faced difficulties connecting to their classes.  

“In a day and era like today, where we rely on these types of interactions [zoom calls] to talk to people, and we rely on news to be to us in up-to-the-minute fashion,” said Bridges. “Where a lot of people consume education, training, news in microformat format on [websites] like YouTube or INE’s website, to not be able to stream content like that deprives them of education opportunities.”

Bridges explains, in his experience created cybersecurity content for those wanting to learn about the field, he encounters users in remote parts of the world where streaming his videos is not possible. For them, learning about cybersecurity could mean the difference between getting out of poverty and staying there.  

While Internet service in every corner of the world does not sound like a bad thing, Bridges feels there are some questions that have yet to be answered about security and the long-term use of satellites.  

Bridges said intercepting satellite signals is nothing new. He feels hackers could have the capability to take advantage. 

“What is the security that is going to be baked into sending data transmissions between satellites when it comes to sensitive data,” asked Bridges. “I think there’s a lot of unknowns that we in the cybersecurity space don’t see the public asking.” 

Bridges admits it is easy to get excited and overlook potential issues that were once a main concern, like having too many objects in Earth’s orbit.  

“I can remember a time where space junk was still a pretty prominent conversation as people launched satellites into space. There’s not exactly a lifecycle process to bring those back to earth when they’ve exceeded their life cycle,” said Bridges, adding that if something were to hit a satellite, it may lead to service blackouts.  

Starlink plans on providing service to the South Texas area as early as mid to late 2021.

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