Starlink Internet: Year Two

Published Monday, January 23, 2023 by Bryan

Another January marks two years of Starlink internet service for me. As I predicted at the end of my last experience post, there wasn't any single event worth writing about. But, here's a wrap-up of the last eight months:

Since taking down the trees causing our major obstructions, Starlink has been so stable that we paused our WISP connection. I would have canceled altogether, but leaving the antenna installed and ready to reconnect costs only $5 per month. That seemed like super cheap insurance for backup internet if my dish gets damaged.

The price increase in May (from $99 to $110 per month) was unwelcome, but not an actual burden. That's what the WISP charges for its highest speeds, which are slower than Starlink's typical slowest speeds.

Three bar charts. The first is titled 'DATA USAGE 207GB' and has one bar per day, starting sometime in month 10. The second chart is titled 'DATA USAGE 187GB' and has bars starting in month 11. The third is titled 'DATA USAGE 163GB' and has bars starting in month 12. Each bar is two segments: a blue segment labeled 'Peak Hours Usage (7 AM to 11 PM)', and a grey segment labeled 'Off-Peak Usage (11 PM to 7 AM)'. The bars vary in height, but generally read in the area of the scale corresponding to 5-15GB each day.
Usage graphs for October, November, and December 2022.

The soft data cap announced late last year took a lot of Redditors by surprise. I was as unsurprised as I was unaffected. The threshold for deprioritization is 1TB. Even the last wired provider we had before moving here (Xfinity) had a throttling cap of 1.25TB. I knew we'd be safely below the limit, because I checked our usage when switching to them from U-verse. Starlink app data confirms we still use about 20% of our alotted data.

I think that the cap level is less interesting than the division between "Peak" and "Off-Peak" hours. A "peak" that is wider than the trough seems odd. I've used this information to shift the uploads of my motorcycle videos later (see the few larger grey bars in November and December). I mostly would have done this anyway, to consume that bandwidth at a time we weren't using it for something else. But, I hope Starlink's labeling means I'm also leaving more bandwidth on the table when others are trying to use it as well.

My only other minor gripe of this year has to do with the new FCC National Broadband Map. It is much better than it used to be. It no longer says that Spectrum serves my address, which is correct. But, it says that all of my neighbors are covered by a provider that can give them up to 100Mbps down and 10Mbps up, and that's not true. The provider, of course, is "Space Exploration Holdings, LLC" aka SpaceX Starlink. I see that speed, but most of my neighbors can't even get dishes. The ones that can only have "best effort" service on offer, which is unlikely to achieve the same performance. Is this really more accurate than the old incorrect provider list?

Luckily the real fix to the FCC map is rumored to be coming true. Late this past summer, Spectrum started telling my neighbors that they'll be pulling fiber down our street … in the summer of 2024. People who have been waiting 10-15 years for better internet are ecstatic, and feel like that's right around the corner. I will stay hopeful, but I'll also be rooting for Starlink to continue to survive and improve for at least another couple years.

My dish's tower, lit up for the holidays.

Categories: Starlink