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Affordability Broadband access Broadband as a Utility Satellite Starlink

Starlink for Rural Broadband

Starlink is a potential solution for broadband for rural America that provides low-earth orbit or LEO satellites that are connected in a sequence and are networked with a grid. The LEO network of satellites provides improved speeds when compared to traditional satellite service. New technologies including Starling promise to bring broadband speeds to remote and sparsely populated communities. Can it work in the rolling hills of Western North Carolina?

Traditional internet service providers, such as cable and telecommunications companies, have provided service to these potential customers; but due to the cost of extending the infrastructure to them, providing fiber high-speed service is not economically feasible. Copper telephone lines do not provide the future-proof speeds that are needed for our connected world. Is the sky the potential internet service for some?

Furthermore, North Carolina law has prevented city and county governments from trying to fill the internet service gap; forcing residents to find creative internet solutions that work for their community.

Highlights of Starlink

  • Researchers are testing several wireless internet technologies in remote areas of North Carolina.
  • The new services are bringing broadband to places that traditional internet vendors rejected.
  • The cost of Starlink — $499 up front plus $99 per month — could be too high for some families.

Other Starlink WNC Broadband Blog Posts

If you have Starlink service in WNC, please contact a member of our leadership team a with your personal feedback and comments about the Starlink or other low-earth satellite internet provider service.


Woolverton P. Elon Musk’s Starlink service helps wrestlers, school kids with high-speed internet at home. The Fayetteville Observer. Published June 25, 2021. Accessed June 27, 2021. https://www.fayobserver.com/story/news/2021/06/25/twitter-elon-musk-starlink-satellite-internet-service-spacex-tesla-north-carolina-matt-hardy/5091546001/

Categories
Advocacy Broadband access Broadband as a Utility Broadband in WNC Community Development Digital Divide Digital Equity Economic Development

Bridging A Digital Divide

High speed internet should be available to everybody in Western North Carolina.

It is critical to economic opportunity, job creation, education, telehealth, and civic engagement.

Broadband Call-To-Action

Your call-to-action should be:

  1. Advocate for the timeless investment of fiber to replace copper and cable. It is likely the power company owns your neighborhood telephone poles and a right-of way is needed.
  2. Steward the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program to your network. A Federal Subsidy of up to $50 per month is available. Additionally, a one time $100 per household for hardware.
  3. Provide the NC Broadband Office with information about the lack of dependable broadband at your location or a friend or neighbor.

Bridging The Digital Divide For All Americans. Federal Communications Commission. https://www.fcc.gov/about-fcc/fcc-initiatives/bridging-digital-divide-all-americans

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A-B Tech Broadband as a Utility Education

Broadband’s New Normal

As Vice-President for Information Technology & Chief Information Officer at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, one of the largest and most impactful educational institutions in western North Carolina, I have had a front-row seat during the COVID-19 crisis and have perhaps a unique perspective on the challenges encountered and lessons learned during the College’s (and community’s) adaptations to this changing environment.

By virtue of a decade of reinvigorated attention to the value of technology within modern higher-education, A-B Tech entered the crisis is a stronger position than many of sister colleges within the North Carolina Community College System, and a stronger position than many other corporate entities and governmental agencies in the region. When NC’s community colleges were instructed in March of 2020 to switch operations to 100% online, A-B Tech was well situated to make this transition and already had much of the infrastructure in place to facilitate that transition. That’s not to say that considerable investments of money, time and labor weren’t needed on a very compressed timeline or that everything had been figured out ahead of time but A-B Tech was fortunate in being able to rapidly make adjustments and deploy resources to quickly resume operations in a radically altered format. As we assess the hurdles already overcome and the difficulties which remain, one of the most universal and foundational challenges is connectivity.

As an institution, A-B Tech can implement solid systems and processes to provide for efficient and effective remote instruction and support, we can deliver software and hardware to enable home-based employees and students alike, we can offer training to facilitate the use of such technology – but we are very restricted in our ability to provide employees or students with the fast and reliable Internet access which necessarily underpins all such remote-working arrangements. We have implemented web-based and cloud-hosted solutions, have deployed laptops, webcams, headsets and mobile WiFi hotspots, have instituted new policies and procedures to adapt operations to fix demands, have established COVID-conscious computer labs and have invited the community to use our parking lots for connectivity from inside one’s car, etc. Only in limited situations, however, have we been able to solve a connectivity challenge with cellular access points or other workaround approaches. Cutting across socioeconomic lines, crossing the urban/rural boundaries, impacting people without regard for educational attainment or financial situation, the very real challenge of high-speed Internet access throughout western North Carolina impacts students, faculty, staff and senior administration at A-B Tech, as it similarly impacts our local businesses and our regional K-12 schools. Broadband Internet access has quickly proven to be a core requirement of “the new normal,” as fundamental to modern life as electricity and running water.

Brian Willis, VP of IT/CIO Information Technology, A-B Tech Community College