News JVTech I’m afraid I won’t have the internet anymore because of Elon Musk’s whims around Starlink
I have been a Starlink user since the very early days, and I am totally dependent on this means of connection in my household and cannot say that using it is like a long calm river. Starlink is probably too innovative at times and too often in the spotlight. Today, a new threat on Starlink with the arrival of Data Cap.
Starlink, a subsidiary of SpaceX owned by Elon Musk, is a company which aims to democratize the internet all over the world, regardless of your location on Earth. Diametrically opposed to a traditional satellite connection, Starlink is characterized by an immense network of satellites in low orbit. Starlink thus allows a very high speed connection with low latency for those who have forgotten about fiber.
Living in a very remote area, for too many years I suffered severe degradation of ADSL services with slower and slower speeds and repeated breakdowns. Annoyed, I turned to Nordnet for a while, but this means of connection is totally incompatible with my player profile. Indeed, the main obstacle for me in using Nordnet was the high latency which could exceed 650 ms.
Starlink is therefore a key part of my household. At a time when teleworking is becoming more democratic, when streaming services have become the norm and/or games are increasingly heavy, it was no longer possible for me to rely only on an abandoned and aging ADSL connection. , hardly exceeding 2 Mega and without fiber for several years, the fault of incessant political contests pushing back the arrival of this type of connection even more. So, I have been a Starlink customer since May 2020.
However, this is not the first time that the service run by Elon Musk has been in the spotlight. On April 5, 2022, following legal action by two ecological associations Priartem and Agir pour l’environnement, the Council of State canceled the authorization given by Arcep to use two radio frequency bands to Starlink, making the service unusable on French territory.
The Council of State had criticized Arcep for not having conducted a public consultation before granting these precious authorizations. Arcep had to proceed urgently at the beginning of May 2022 with the missing public consultation. These 30 days of consultation enabled Arcep to receive just over 2,000 responses from Starlink customers and industry players. In view of the contributions received, Arcep took the decision to grant Starlink a new authorization to use frequencies.
A new threat for Starlink users?
I thought I was safe from this type of threat that undermines the user experience, but a significant change is coming to US and Canadian customers with the arrival of the “Data Cap” forcing users not to exceed 1TB of data. This system aims to empower customers in the use of data in order to be able to guarantee a fair experience for all. Starlink is therefore chasing large data users in order to best limit the costly equipment put into orbit in order to better respond to ever more users.
A limit of 1 TB per month
But what does 1 TB of data represent? Personally, with 3 people in my household including a teenage girl addicted to TikTok and with normal internet use via telecommuting + video games on several machines and streaming service like Netflix, Prime video or others. I thus hardly exceed 800/900 GB of data despite what for me is intensive use.
This restriction, announced for some time, starts with North American users. They are limited to 1 TB of data per month. Once this flat rate has been reached, a limitation is imposed. We still do not know the nature of this limitation and what speed will then be applied.
Why such restrictions?
The number of customers continues to grow where the bar of 700,000 users was crossed last September, undermining the number of satellites in orbit. In North America, where the customer base is most concentrated involves a more complicated network strain thus forcing SpaceX to find solutions. The first is the 1TB limitation for users with the ability to purchase additional credits. Users can thus choose to purchase additional data to recover priority for 0.25 cts per additional GB.
But this is not the only track considered by the firm of Elon Musk. Aware of the challenge of its system, it will be imperative for SpaceX to find a lasting solution and it is towards the stars that it will have to look. In effect, one of the solutions to manage the massive influx of users is the improvement of Starlink satellites with a V2 version which should be released in 2023/2024. This new generation of much larger and heavier satellites will be launched by the Starship/SuperHeavy still under development.
Across the Atlantic, the Starlink service is much more popular than in Europe. The USA and Canada suffer from a very poor global infrastructure especially outside the cities forcing users to massively use Starlink. In Europe and particularly in France, our network infrastructure, even if still too uneven, is much better, which brings the number of French customers at only 4000 (figure from May 2022).
The price of Starlink service halved
SpaceX is therefore starting to introduce data restrictions in the USA and Canada, like what NordNet has been offering for years. This 1 TB limitation is not without compensation for the customer. To have this “Data Cap” accepted, SpaceX reduced the price of the service by 50%, thus dropping from €100 to €50.. This is therefore rather good news for French customers. Not impacted for the moment by this “Data Cap” which, even if it were to come into service, would in any case be sufficient for 90% of the users of which I am a part.
What are the consequences once these 1 TB have been consumed?
Once the 1 TB of data has been consumed, users will switch from a “priority” offer to “basic” access without having any information about what the latter represents. Some rumors indicate that this rate would be 1 Mb/s, which is obviously incompatible with traditional Internet use these days. Such a reduced package no longer allows you to watch streaming videos even in degraded format.
According to the email received, customers who have exceeded 1 TB in their billing month will see their connection go to “non-priority” without having more details for the moment. One can only imagine that their throughput will depend on other connected clients nearby. SpaceX explains this choice in the email received by Starlink users last August (note that at that time, the Data Cap was set at only 250 GB):
Under the Fair Use policy, all users will continue to have access to unlimited data. Users who consume 250 GB/month (Editor’s note: now at 1 TB) or less data will be prioritized. Users who exceed 250 GB/month will still have access to unlimited data, but may experience slower speeds during times of network congestion.
However, if necessary, since large consumers cannot do without such a service, it will be possible to purchase additional prioritized data. You will have to pay 0.25 cents per additional GB, or $250 for an additional 1 TB. SpaceX ensures that only 10% of users regularly cross the threshold of 1 TB of data per month.
What does SpaceX say about this limitation in France?
Following my concern about the limitations imposed in the USA and Canada, I contacted SpaceX to obtain more information on possible restrictions in France. These were meant to be reassuring. Some time later, I received an email confirming that no restrictions would be introduced in France for the time being. But nothing says that later, depending on the number of French customers, these restrictions could apply as is the case in North America in order to guarantee a fair service for all.
We thank those of you who took the time to provide us with feedback on the Fair Use Policy. Based on your feedback, we have decided to update the terms and conditions of use of our residential service to remove the priority data limit of 250 GB. The price of the service remains unchanged at €50 per month and our customers residential customers can continue to enjoy unlimited data.
Will I stay with Starlink following this threat of a limitation?
Starlink breaks the conventional way of accessing the internet. Its mode of operation linked to its growing popularity requires SpaceX to review certain aspects in order to make the sharing of data fairer. Threatening in early May with a 250 GB limitation, Elon Musk’s company revised its limitations upwards with a Data Cap of 1 TB, which is more than enough for 90% of users. Even if in Europe we are not affected by this Data Cap, it is quite possible that it will arrive later in our regions. Even if it were to happen, I’m not worried about the future of Starlink.