Elon Musk satellites send internet to remote fishing villages in Chile


Sotomo, Chile — After a 30-minute boat ride on a rocky estuary to a remote school in southern Chile, Diego Guerrero finally gained access to the internet. rice field.

His school is located in the village of Sotomo, about 1,000 km (620 miles) south of Santiago, the capital of the Los Lagos region, and is home to only 20 families.

Go to school
Carlos Guerrero, 40, and his son Diego, 7, begin their journey to John F. Kennedy School in the village of Sotomo, outside the town of Cochamo in the Los Lagos region of Chile, on August 6, 2021. .. (Pablo Sanhueza / Reuters)

Dotted with brightly painted wooden houses and tin houses wet in the rain, Sotomo stands out against the rows of mist-covered rock outcrops that jut out into the Pacific Ocean. Only accessible by boat.

For decades, the inhabitants have survived by catching mussels and fish and selling them on the market. 5 hours round trip by boat.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk of Billionaire is currently selected for a one-year free internet pilot project in one of two locations in Chile.

Starlink, a division of SpaceX, deploys 12,000 satellites as part of its low earth orbit network and is low worldwide, with a particular focus on remote areas where terrestrial Internet infrastructure is struggling to reach. We aim to provide delayed broadband internet services.

Since October, we have been offering the “Better Than Nothing Beta” program to US subscribers and pilot trials in other countries. In Chile, a second antenna will be installed in Caleta Sierra, a small fishing port near the arid northern desert.

The plan is to generate the money SpaceX needs to fund Mask’s dream of flying paid customers to the moon and eventually developing a new rocket that can attempt to colonize Mars. It is the key of.

For 7-year-old Diego, a stable internet is a dream enough.

“I really like the internet because I can do my homework,” he said. “Because it’s faster, you can do more.”

Starlink did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment. SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said in a July statement regarding Chilean pilots: High-speed connectivity can have a transformative impact on these communities. “

Expand your horizons

My favorite subject at Diego’s school is mathematics. He wants to be a sailor and loves to go fishing on his father Carlos.

Child with a toy boat
Diego Guerrero, 7, is playing on a toy boat in his kitchen on August 6, 2021 in the village of Sotomo, outside the town of Cochamo in the Los Lagos region of Chile. (Pablo Sanhueza / Reuters)

Carlos, 40, has a more ambitious plan for his son and hopes that the window to the world that new internet connections will give him will broaden his horizons.

He often takes Diego to school by boat every day and fights the wind and rain to get there.

“I didn’t have the option of going to school, so even if it’s difficult, I can go to school in any situation, whether it’s good or bad weather or a pandemic,” he said.

“If he is well educated, he has that option and wants to do it, and one day all Sotomo’s children will be able to get a profession. I have all my hope. “

Using tablets provided by the Ministry of Education, seven students at the school can access online learning materials, watch movies, visit virtual museums, and try video calls with children from other schools. You can now do it.

Javier de la Barra, the only teacher at Sotomo’s John F Kennedy School, said he was also looking forward to using it for professional development.

Teachers and students
Teacher Javier de la Barra Casanova, 58, said Diego Guerrero (58 years old) during a class at John F Kennedy School in the village of Sotomo, outside the town of Cochamo in the Los Lagos region of Chile, on August 6. 7 years old) 2021. (Pablo Sanhueza / Reuters)

The signal is received via a satellite dish installed on the roof of the school and transmitted via a Wi-Fi device to most facilities and outdoor patios. Ultimately, we plan to extend it to the rest of the settlement.

Due to the limited supply of diesel to the generators that power Sotomo, it only works from noon to midnight.

Nonetheless, according to de la Barra, residents can now get on their cell phones by leaning out of windows or rowing into the bay, which is a significant amount of patchy mobile internet signals. It’s progress.

The Starlink antenna was installed in July and was launched earlier this month at a ceremony attended by the Minister of Transport and Communications Gloria Hat.

She said she hopes Starlink will be the key to bridging the digital divide in Chile and the wider region. The blockade of the coronavirus has made it impossible for people to work and study on the Internet.

According to government statistics, Chile is one of the highest internet penetration rates on the continent, with 21 million mobile internet connections out of a population of 19 million as of March 2021.

But as the family of foreign friends can prove, having a mobile internet doesn’t mean you can always get a signal.

“I love living here,” said Carlos Guerrero. “Quiet and my family is stress-free, but lacks connectivity, roads, electricity and drinking water.

“It would be great if we could extend all these services to the entire community, not just a few, so that everyone can enjoy them.”

By Pablo Sanhueza