Starlink: A bridge or a wedge to the Philippines’ digital divide?

The digital divide in the Philippines is a major issue creating unequal access to technology and the Internet thus resulting in a significant gap in economic opportunities, social development, and education. In December 2022, Elon Musk’s Starlink was launched in the country triggering waves of interest as it promises what the local telcos and internet service providers failed to do in their decades of operation — connectivity that is fast and reliable.

While internet access is available in urban centers, much of the Philippines’ rural areas still lack reliable and high-speed internet connections due to the lack of infrastructure. Add to this the lack of access by most Filipinos to digital technology including laptops or smartphones and similar gadgets due to the high cost of such devices.

Likewise, a significant portion population is poor, or near poor, and poverty is a major factor in the digital divide. Many people cannot afford to buy a device or pay for internet access, particularly those living in rural areas.

The digital divide has many negative consequences, including the exclusion of many Filipinos from economic, social, and educational opportunity. Initiatives such as government funding for infrastructure development and digital literacy programs can help to bridge this gap and provide equal access to technology and the Internet which, unfortunately, are insufficient if not lacking. Hence, when the news that Starlink will be offered in the country, a ray of hope was seen.

BASS Analytics: Starlinks detected in the Philippines as of April 17, 2023

Starlink is a satellite internet service that aims to provide high-speed internet connection to remote and underserved areas. Since the Philippines is an archipelago with many remote islands, a technology similar to Starlink is a viable solution.

As of April 17, 2023, almost all parts of the country, particularly the rural areas, show Starlink users. It is doubtful, however, if those who access the same belong to the lower income tiers as Starlink comes with a price. The equipment, according to Data Lake, the third party service provider of Starlink in the Philippines, is USD 599 or Php 33,482 per unit – a hefty sum, especially for people in remote areas.  Apart from the hardware, a monthly subscription is also required to access the internet at USD 99 or Php 5,535.

The enterprise kit is also priced at Php 201,600 and a monthly subscription fee of PhP 28,000 while the maritime kit, or those used in the maritime industry, is pegged at Php 728,000.

These figures reiterates the question: Will the introduction of Starlink in the country narrow the digital divide or further broaden the same?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: