Home Latest Farmers rely on SpaceX program to stay connected – Leader-Telegram

Farmers rely on SpaceX program to stay connected – Leader-Telegram


WHEELER —Caleb and Lauren Langworthy were about 150 yards away from receiving high-speed internet when fiber optic cables were installed in their community.
Lauren watched fiber optic cables being laid, but the crews stopped at a neighboring property and started working away from the Langworthy’s.
Lauren said she stopped the crews and asked if they could extend the cables to reach their property, but the logistics of the grants the telecommunication companies were given to lay the cables didn’t permit them to extend it.
“We’re right here, ya know, it’s like less than 150 yards from our house,” Lauren said. “It was an extremely frustrating situation.”
The farm had been using CenturyLink internet service. It worked, but was frustratingly slow internet in the rural area.
“Trying to work from home and run our social media, website, anything like that has been really difficult,” Lauren said. “We have to make sure all of our cellphones are off to watch a YouTube video.”
Lauren and Caleb own the Blue Ox Farm near Wheeler, Wisconsin. They raise grass-fed beef and lamb that is sold directly to consumers around the region.
Because they sell directly to consumers, the Langworthys need reliable internet to manage and process orders, update their company’s social media and communicate with customers.
Lauren also works from home as the Director of Special Projects for the Wisconsin Farmers Union. “I’m regularly on Zoom calls and sending emails,” Lauren said. “So it’s very essential for my off-farm work that we are able to have access.”
After hopes for fiber faded, the Langworthys decided to sign up for the Starlink program.
Starlink is operated by SpaceX and provides high-speed broadband internet access using low-orbit satellites. Eau Claire County recently participated in the Starlink pilot program to see if it would be beneficial to areas and residents who do not have reliable broadband.
Eau Claire County Information System Director Greg Dachel said the goal of the pilot project was to understand Starlink and how well it works for rural areas.
The pilot program was offered to 50 residents and received mostly positive feedback overall.
“The performance was good for most people,” Dachel said. “It seems to overall work very well and it’s an option for very rural areas.”
Although Starlink provides more reliable and consistent internet speeds, it has its own drawbacks.
The satellite dish the program utilizes must have an unobstructed line of sight to the satellite in orbit. Trees can be disruptive. And, much like satellite television, poor weather conditions can interrupt service.
Caleb and Lauren have been using the Starlink program for the past few weeks and Lauren said it’s great when it’s working. However, they have had issues with internet drops every half hour to 45 minutes.
“It’ll just cut out for 30 seconds and if I’m on a Zoom call for example I’ll get kicked out and have to log back in,” Lauren said.
Despite the random drops, Lauren said the program works pretty well. They had no issues with installing their satellite dish and were able to get internet access established relatively quickly.
“Whether it these fiber optic grants being able to help those who are underserved, offering support to help cover things like the infrastructure to get connected to Starlink (or) trying deal with these latency issues, all of that is going to be a big thing for people like us,” Lauren said.
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Having worked on Entertainment, Technology, and Business for four years, Meenakshi finds solace in technology, and more so in covering it. She has worked with organizations like Hindustan Times and Bracecorp Publications (B2B publication). She loves to read novels, listen to music, and roam around places. She is the responsible person for our editorial lineup. You can reach Meenakshi at editor@thehoopsnews.com.