Tech billionaire Elon Musk announced this weekend that he was sending additional terminals of his Starlink broadband internet system to Ukraine following a request from the government.
“While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people!” tweeted Mykhailo Fedorov, the Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, on Feb. 26. “We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand.”
Fedorov also serves as the nation’s Minister of Digital Transformation.
Musk responded less than 12 hours later that service had been activated.
Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 26, 2022
Starlink promises its customers high-speed internet through a web of satellites orbiting the Earth.
“Using advanced satellites in a low orbit, Starlink enables video calls, online gaming, streaming, and other high data rate activities that historically have not been possible with satellite internet,” the company says online. “Users can expect to see download speeds between 100 Mb/s and 200 Mb/s and latency as low as 20ms in most locations.”
Starlink’s ultimate mission is to provide the entire global population access to the internet.
Musk started the company in 2015 and launched its first satellites in 2018. In 2020, it was given $885.5 million in Federal Communications Commission grants and increased its production. There are currently more than 2,000 Starlink satellites in orbit, per CNET.
In January, Musk sent 50 terminals to Tonga, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, following a volcanic eruption and tsunami that devastated several remote villages.
The Ukrainian government’s request came three days into an invasion from Russia. According to The New York Post, the fighting has left several parts of the country without internet service
NetBlocks reported that the nation’s connectivity was 87% of its normal levels. Ukraine’s main internet provider fell below 20% service last week, although it began to recover by Feb. 25.
“The internet has been a crucial avenue for Ukraine to connect with people beyond its borders,” reports Entrepreneur.com. “Ordinary people have been using social media platforms like TikTok to report on events happening in the country, while speeches from government officials like Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky have gone viral.”
While it is not clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin has made any efforts to block Ukrainians’ ability to communicate, the fear of a potential internet blackout remains high.