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May 31, 2022

Every First Responder HQ in Vermont Needs Two Portable Starlink Dishes

Satellite Broadband is Terrestrial Emergency Proof

When tropical storm Irene lashed Vermont eleven years ago, many towns became islands. The roads and bridges to them were gone. Some towns were also cutoff from all communications. The poles that brought them electricity, phone, and some Internet service (if they had any) were gone. Cellular towers were blown down, lost their own wired connections to the communications backbone, and/or ran out of diesel fuel for their backup generators. repair crews did a fabulous job; but they couldn’t be everywhere at once – and some places were simply inaccessible to the trucks for weeks.

Some cut off towns sent couriers out on foot to get emergency medicine or arrange helicopter evacuations of sick and injured people. Sometimes people found there was one hill they could drive to and get spotty cellular coverage as long as they had enough gas to get there and run the car to keep the cellphones charged.

No matter what weather or catastrophe hits us in the future, there is no excuse for ever losing communications again. The difference is the ready availability of satellite communication. Satellites circling 200 miles above us and powered by solar power obviously aren’t affected by whatever terrestrial problem  afflicts us. As long as first responders have some source of 110-volt power and a view of the northern sky, they can keep on communicating during and after a storm or other catastrophe.

Starlink terminals are now transportable so they can easily be taken to the site of any emergency and used to establish broadband communication almost instantly even if the site of the disaster didn’t have broadband coverage before. Think, perhaps, of a train wreck on an isolated section of track or a forest fire destroying the infrastructure around a rural town. In Ukraine Starlink terminals have kept communication alive even under relentless and ruthless Russian bombing of infrastructure. Reportedly the brave defenders of the Azovstal garrison in Mariupol had Starlink service up until the time they were overrun.

At the moment Starlink is available for immediate delivery almost everywhere in Vermont. Only the dark blue areas below are waitlisted.

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The cost is trivial in a first responder budget. $599 for the initial kit including a WiFi router and everything you need for a ground installation (close to $700 when you add Vermont tax and shipping). $110/month with no minimum commitment or contract. Another $25/month for the option to move the dish from place to place.

Sometimes I sound – even to myself – like a salesman for Starlink. I do NOT have any financial interest in Starlink or anything else associated with Elon Musk. I do not think Starlink is a better option for home broadband than fiber – if you can get fiber. But, in a catastrophe, there are currently no other broadband alternatives. When there are, I’ll look at them, too.

Why wouldn’t a first responder unit want to have a dish on its roof and another on a truck ready-to-go? Hopefully they’ll never be used although they’re always good for creating a Wi-Fi hotspot between emergencies. Assuring portable emergency broadband is an action every town, fire department, ambulance service, and police department should take now. No need to wait for a grant. Very bad idea to wait for an emergency before preparing.

See also:

Starlink To Go

Where is Starlink Available Now? Finally An Official Map

Starlink

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