ODESSA, Texas – (NEXSTAR) – Dozens of families in Odessa, Texas will be getting free access to internet service provided by Elon Musk’s SpaceX aerospace company, according to the Ector County Independent School District.
The ECISD said in a press release that “Ector County ISD is the first school district in the United States to work with SpaceX in harnessing its Starlink satellite constellation to deliver high-speed, low-latency Internet access for ECISD students.”
The district says 45 families are slated to get access to the service in early 2021, and another 45 will also have Starlink internet once the network capabilities grow.
“This innovative partnership represents bold and unprecedented action for our school district and our community,” said ECISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Scott Muri. “Our research clearly indicates the lack of broadband access is a crisis in Ector County. In collaboration with SpaceX, we are providing space-based Internet services to students and families that have few, if any, options. The partners with us share our vision for equity and access for all students. Today, we take a giant leap forward in closing the digital divide that exists within our community.”
School officials say the pandemic and transition to remote learning revealed just how many students don’t have access to high speed Wi-Fi.
Musk’s SpaceX is launching mini satellites into space as part of a plan to provide global internet coverage. On Sunday, SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“The total global constellation we’re targeting is 1,440 satellites, of which a good number of those are already on orbit,” Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX’s vice president of Starlink, told Spaceflight Now.
CNBC reports that they obtained screenshots of the “Better Than Nothing Beta” test, plans for the first rollout of Starlink internet service. The consumers’ monthly cost would be $99 after spending a one-time fee of $499 to order the Starlink Kit – a user terminal to connect to the satellites.
SpaceX said it seeks to provide “near global coverage of the populated world by 2021.”