News JVTech I’m afraid I won’t have the internet anymore because of Elon Musk’s whims about Starlink
I have been a Starlink user since the early days and I totally depend on this connection in my household and can’t 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 worldwide, regardless of your location on Earth. Diametrically opposed to a traditional satellite connection, Starlink is characterized by a huge network of satellites in low orbit. Starlink thus allows a very high speed connection with low latency for those who have forgotten fibre.
Lives in a very remote area, for too many years I have suffered severe ADSL service degradation with slower and slower speeds and repeated crashes. Annoyed, I approached Nordnet for a while, but this connection is completely incompatible with my player profile. In fact, the biggest obstacle for me using Nordnet was the high latency, which could exceed 650ms.
Starlink is therefore an important part of my household. In an age where telecommuting is becoming more democratic, streaming services have become the norm and/or gaming is increasingly heavy, it was no longer possible for me to rely solely on an abandoned and aging ADSL connection. , hardly over 2 Mega and without fiber for several years, the fault of incessant political contests that pushed the arrival of this type of connection even further back. So I have been a Starlink customer since May 2020.
However, it is not the first time that the service run by Elon Musk has been in the spotlight. On 5 April 2022, the Council of State canceled the authorization granted by Arcep to use two radio frequency bands for Starlink, after the two ecological associations Priartem and Agir pour l’environnement applied, rendering the service unusable on French territory.
The Council of State had criticized Arcep for not conducting a public hearing before granting these precious permits. At the beginning of May 2022, Arcep had to proceed immediately 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 light of the contributions received, Arcep took the decision to grant Starlink a new license 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 one significant change is coming to US and Canadian customers with the arrival of the “Data Cap” forcing users not to exceed 1 TB of data. This system aims to empower customers in the use of data in order to guarantee a fair experience for everyone. Starlink is therefore chasing large data users to best limit the expensive equipment that is put into orbit to better respond to an increasing number of 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 who is addicted to TikTok and with normal internet usage via telecommuting + video games on multiple machines and streaming services like Netflix, Prime video or others. I thus hardly exceed 800/900 GB of data, despite what for me is intensive use.
This restriction, which has been announced for some time, starts with North American users. They are limited to 1 TB of data per month. Once this fixed rate is reached, a limit 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, with the 700,000 user mark being exceeded last September, undermining the number of satellites in orbit. In North America, where the customer base is most concentrated, involves a more complicated network load, forcing SpaceX to find solutions. The first is the 1TB limit for users with the option to purchase additional credits. Users can thus choose to purchase additional data to restore priority for 0.25 cts per extra GB.
But this is not the only track that the company Elon Musk is considering. Aware of the challenge of its system, it will be imperative for SpaceX to find a lasting solution, and it will have to look to the stars. Take effect, one of the solutions to deal with 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 Starship/SuperHeavy, which is still under development.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the Starlink service is much more popular than in Europe. The US and Canada suffer from a very poor global infrastructure, especially outside the cities, forcing users to massively use Starlink. In Europe and especially in France, our network infrastructure, although still too patchy, is much better, which brings the number of French customers of only 4000 (May 2022 figure).
The price of the Starlink service was halved
SpaceX is therefore starting to introduce data restrictions in the US and Canada, just like what NordNet has offered for years. This limitation of 1 TB is not without compensation to the customer. To get this “Data Cap” accepted, SpaceX reduced the price of the service by 50%, dropping from €100 to €50.. This is therefore quite good news for French customers. Not currently affected by this “Data Cap” which, even if it were to be implemented, would in any case be sufficient for 90% of the users that I am part of.
What are the consequences once this 1 TB has been consumed?
Once the 1 TB of data is consumed, users will switch from a “priority” offer to “basic” access without having any information about what the latter represents. Some rumors suggest that this speed would be 1 Mb/s, which is obviously incompatible with traditional internet usage 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 1TB in their billing month will see their connection go to “non-priority” with no further details currently available. One can only imagine that their throughput will depend on other connected clients nearby. SpaceX explains this choice in the email Starlink users received last August (Note that at the time the Data Cap was only set to 250GB):
According to the Fair Use policy, all users will continue to have access to unlimited data. Users using 250 GB/month (Editor’s note: now at 1 TB) or less data will be prioritized. Users exceeding 250GB/month will still have access to unlimited data, but may experience slower speeds during times of network congestion.
However, if necessary, as large consumers cannot do without such a service, it will be possible to purchase additional priority data. You must pay 0.25 cents per extra 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 restriction in France?
After my concern about the restrictions imposed in the US and Canada, I contacted SpaceX to get more information about possible restrictions in France. These should be reassuring. Some time later I received an email confirming that there would be no restrictions 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 to guarantee a fair service for all.
We thank those of you who took the time to give us 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’ private customers can continue to enjoy unlimited data.
Will I stay with Starlink after this threat of a restriction?
Starlink breaks the conventional way of accessing the Internet. Its mode of operation coupled with its growing popularity requires SpaceX to review certain aspects to make the sharing of data more equitable. Elon Musk’s company threatened in early May with a 250GB limit and revised its limits upward with a data cap of 1TB, which is more than enough for 90% of users. Although we in Europe are not affected by this Data Cap, it is very possible that it will come later to our regions. Even if that were to happen, I’m not worried about Starlink’s future.