Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Saturday the state is working with Elon Musk to expand internet access in hurricane-devastated regions of southwest Florida using his Starlink satellite internet service, marking the company’s latest foray into expanding service for a region in crisis.
DeSantis said the company plans to send 120 “large Starlink units” to Florida, which will serve as satellite dishes to distribute internet connections to devices within a 13-mile radius.
Many of the terminals are set to go to Lee County, where dozens have died and coastal communities have been left devastated after taking a direct hit from Category 4 Hurricane Ian on Wednesday.
Search and rescue crews will also be prioritized in receiving access to Starlink units, DeSantis said.
Starlink is fully covering “the costs associated with all the coverage,” according to the governor.
The Florida effort comes just over a week after the U.S. allowed Starlink to start providing service to Iran, where the government cracked down on internet access in response to protests after a woman allegedly arrested for improperly wearing a headscarf died in police custody. Starlink has also prioritized internet access for Ukraine since Russia invaded in February, with a Ukrainian official saying in May roughly 150,000 people there were using Starlink internet every day. Photos from southwest Florida show coastal communities essentially obliterated and major damage to infrastructure, including coastal roadways that have been destroyed. Musk has stated Starlink’s goal is to provide internet access to areas where ground services are traditionally unavailable or unreliable.
72%. That’s how much of Lee County remains without power, according to PowerOutage.us. The county has a population of more than 750,000 and includes communities like Fort Myers and Sanibel.
Starlink’s Iran effort has faced criticism for having little impact on internet availability, though the main drawback appears to be the lack of ability to access terminals in Iran, which may not be an issue in Florida.
We estimate Musk to be worth $247.9 billion, making him the richest man in the world.