Elon Musk’s satellite internet company, Starlink, will help provide broadband internet access to people in Florida affected by Hurricane Ian.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said Saturday that Starlink will reposition some of its satellites to help get emergency responders online in Florida, where Hurricane Ian has resulted in more than 61 deaths and knocked power out for some 700,000 residences and businesses as of Monday, down from 2.6 million initially, the Associated Press reported.
“We’re working with Elon Musk and Starlink satellites,” DeSantis said Saturday at a press conference in Fort Meyers, where he also said the state was working with local telecom companies to restore internet and phone access.
In addition to repositioning satellites to improve internet coverage, SpaceX, the company that operates Starlink, was expected to deploy 120 “large Starlink units” to be used on the ground, DeSantis said. Each unit can provide internet access for up to 1,000 users within a 13-mile radius, he added. The units will be distributed in Lee, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto and Hardee counties, DeSantis said.
SpaceX did not respond immediately to a request for further details.
SpaceX “donated the costs associated with all the coverage, so we want to thank SpaceX and thank Elon Musk for that,” DeSantis said.
This is not the first time SpaceX has made its technology available to a crisis-stricken area. The company sent Starlink terminals to Ukraine after Russia invaded in February. Though the U.S. Agency for International Development initially described SpaceX’s action as a donation worth $10 million, it later emerged that the U.S. government had paid for some of the Starlink terminals and for some of the shipping costs, the Washington Post reported. SpaceX did not respond to the Post’s requests for comment about the arrangement.
The Florida governor’s office and SpaceX did not respond immediately to MarketWatch’s questions on whether the state will pay any of the costs associated with the Starlink deployment to help Hurricane Ian victims.
Musk, founder of Tesla
and one of the world’s richest people, said earlier this year that he considered his companies to be a form of philanthropy, because they exist to help humanity.
“SpaceX, Tesla, Neuralink, and The Boring Company are philanthropy,” Musk said in an interview with Chris Anderson, head of TED Talks. “If you say philanthropy is love of humanity, they are philanthropy. Tesla is accelerating sustainable energy. This is philanthropy. SpaceX is trying to ensure the long-term survival of humanity with multi-planet species. This is love of humanity.”
Looking to help people affected by Hurricane Ian? Organizations accepting donations include the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Florida Disaster Fund, which is the “State of Florida’s official private fund established to provide financial assistance to our communities as they respond to and recover from times of emergency or disaster, according to the governor’s office.