The Legault government will use the services of a company owned by Tesla founder Elon Musk in order to honor its promise to provide high-speed internet access in underserved regions before the end of his term. Just over 10,000 remote homes will be connected by the American company’s service.
Starlink’s low-orbit satellites, operated by SpaceX, were the best technological solution to connect the most difficult-to-reach homes by fiber optics, defended the parliamentary assistant to the prime minister for high-speed Internet, Gilles Bélanger, during a meeting. in Sherbrooke on Monday. Due to their geographic remoteness, some homes can hardly be connected to a fiber optic network, he explained.
“The only solution to connect these orphan homes is the SpaceX solution. I don’t make a connection with Elon Musk, I make a connection with the technological solution, which is the most advanced”, added Mr. Belanger.
If fiber optics are prioritized when possible, homes that will be connected to the Internet via high-speed satellite will have just as good a connection, he says. Starlink may offer a download speed of 100 megabits (Mbit/s) while a connection is considered high speed from 50 Mbit/s. “People often confuse the old high-orbit satellite with the new low-orbit satellite. There will be no problem in terms of Internet quality of service. »
Quebec is therefore providing $50 million in funding to enable the deployment of Starlink’s satellite broadcast service. The government expects to have connected 10,200 homes south of the 57th parallel by September 30, 2022. The $9.5 million assistance will also be awarded to targeted homes to cover the entire cost of acquiring reception.
The award of the contract to an American company raises questions, believes the official opposition leader, Dominique Anglade, who specified in a press conference that she did not have the opportunity to know all the details of the agreement. “I would prefer that we do business with people who are here in Quebec. Understanding the need to do business with this company when we have it here in Quebec, that is the first question I would have asked the government,” she commented.
The Deputy Secretary General of the Quebec Executive Council, Stéphane Le Bouyonnec, responded that local businesses would have been prioritized when possible. “We gave everything we could to companies in Quebec and Canadians. The big players, but also the smaller players. »
A race before the election
The Legault administration also predicts that it will have achieved its goal of providing high-speed Internet access to 250,000 homes by the end of September, before the end of its term. This number includes the 10,000 homes that will be connected via the Starlink service.
These households will need access to a connection of at least 50 Mbit/s download and 10 Mbit/s upload, with unlimited data transfer capacity.
Bélanger would have liked to launch the Starlink deal a little earlier, but the conflict in Ukraine forced him to delay his plans for a few months, he says. The American company left the capacity to the Ukrainian government, which needed the satellites to defend itself from the Russian invasion. “I think it was a good move on our part to delay it for a few months. »
The launch of an interactive map where we can monitor the deployment of high-speed Internet in Quebec was also announced on Monday. The map will track connection status for an address, county or region.
Quebec had budgeted $1.3 billion to speed up connecting remote regions.
In a press conference, Le Bouyonnec specified that approximately $1.1 billion had been committed, including Monday’s announcement. The federal government contributed approximately $470 million to this funding, bringing Quebec’s share to approximately $610 million.