SpaceX is reportedly in talks with Brazil’s government to bring Starlink’s Internet service to remote communities, including parts of the Amazon rainforest. The deal in progress will especially benefit schools and access to telehealth service.
Brazilian communications minister Fabio Faria confirmed a meeting with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in a tweet.
“We are talking about environmental issues and connecting people in rural schools in Brazil,” he said.
In July, Chile reached a similar deal with SpaceX for a pilot program that provides satellite Internet service in Caleta Sierra in the Coquimbo Region and Sotomó in the Los Lagos Region. Both communities are in hard-to-reach areas of Chile.
Starlink is already getting close to speeds provided by “traditional,” landline broadband Internet. In Q2 2021, testers reported speeds of 97.23 megabits per second (Mbps). Fixed broadband Internet gets an average speed of 115.22 Mbps.
This beats competitors like ViaSat and Hughesnet by a long shot. ViaSat’s satellite Internet gets an average download speed of 18.13 Mbps and Hughesnet gets 19.73 Mbps. ViaSat has reportedly not reacted well to having serious competition, filing regulatory complaints and legal challenges to SpaceX’s frequent launches of Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit.
Quite understandably, Elon Musk expressed annoyance with ViaSat’s actions at a time when SpaceX is making significant strides in bringing high speed Internet to communities that have previously been left out.
SpaceX already has more than 500,000 reservations for access to Starlink, which indicates strong demand for an “alternative” method for accessing the Internet. It aims to slash the cost of terminals and will hopefully ramp up their production.
SpaceX’s Starlink is uniquely suited to providing high speed Internet to remote communities like those in the Amazon rainforest without having to bury broadband Internet cables and new “backbones” for the worldwide Internet “grid.” Deals like this will help close the “digital divide” that have closed off opportunities for remote and low-income opportunities.
SpaceX is currently participating in government programs organized by the United Kingdom and United States to help close the divide in some remote regions within their own borders. It has also made deals with Native American populations like the Hoh Tribe and Cherokee Nation to deliver the Internet to their people. These are areas and populations that have previously been neglected during previous efforts to expand Internet access due to perceived lack of demand.
Access to the Internet has become so important in the modern world that the United Nations declared Internet access to be a human right in 2011. A report published by the UN in May 2021 highlighted the importance of Internet access for economic improvement in rural, remote, and less-advantaged areas.
Besides the economic benefits, Brazil anticipates that Starlink’s Internet access will help with other causes, including environmental ones. Brazil has especially faced international pressure to protect the Amazon rainforest, which was reportedly an especially hot topic at a recent climate summit in Glasgow.
“Our objective is to bring internet to rural areas and remote places, as well as to help control fires and illegal deforestation in the Amazon rainforest,” Faria said in the statement announcing talks between SpaceX and Brazil.