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Starlink announces data cap, stirs controversy

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Starlink RV will not be affected by a newly announced data cap.

SpaceX announced on November 1st that it would implement a “Fair Use Policy” for residential subscribers that would cap “Priority Access” data at 1T (one Terabyte) per month. There was a groundswell of complaints and a great deal of fear and anxiety over the prospect of a new limitation on data for the pricey ($110/mo.) residential Starlink service. Upon reaching or exceeding the cap of 1T of data, a Starlink Priority customer would have their service reduced to “Basic Access” at much lower speeds. Subscribers could then purchase more Priority Access data at $0.25 per gigabyte.

But what does that mean for Starlink RV subscribers?

Perhaps surprisingly—nothing.

Will the same 1 Terabyte data cap apply? No.

Why not?

Because Starlink RV is and has been, from its introduction, only “Basic Access” service. Thus, whatever data speed the Starlink RV user obtains at any location, that data speed will continue uncapped.

SpaceX has promoted Starlink RV, with its higher monthly cost of $135, as having the mobility advantage over basic residential Starlink:

Users can expect high speed, low latency internet in areas marked “High Capacity,” and notably slower speeds during hours of peak usage in areas marked as “Low Capacity” or during events with many collocated users.

So, the value-add for Starlink RV is the ability to move from place to place and have satellite broadband service in places where before there was none.

Ironically, all the gnashing of teeth over the impending 1T data does not apply to Starlink RV.

Due to how SpaceX rolled out Starlink initially, some RV customers acquired standard Starlink service before the advent of Starlink RV. Those Starlink customers will thus be subject to the 1T data cap.

How to avoid the Starlink data cap

To reiterate, when SpaceX declared its intention to implement a “Fair Use Policy” with a 1-Terabyte monthly data cap aimed at balancing supply and demand for its satellite broadband, subscribers reacted with disdain, fearing that their already comparatively expensive service would be throttled down to dial-up rates or result in additional usage fees.

While very high-volume power users likely will encounter the data cap, most users won’t. SpaceX claims that fewer than 10 percent of its priority service customers exceed 1T. Starlink RV subscribers are “Basic Access” customers and are not subject to the cap. Those Starlink residential customers who signed up before the intro of Starlink RV may be subject to the cap.

What does it mean?

First of all, a terabyte is a lot of data. Most users won’t exceed it. It takes a lot of streaming or gaming to reach the threshold. However, there are a few tips to avoid unnecessary data usage.

For example, if you routinely use YouTube, be aware that the platform may be running in the background even when you are not watching it. Adjust settings to prevent streaming—and this includes all of the entertainment services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc., from running in the background when not actively selected. Ditto with software and app updates that are set to automatically download. Make sure to set up any updates or downloads to run between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., when the data use is exempt from the tally for total monthly use.

Another tactic that can help to ameliorate data use and the cap is to reduce the resolution of streamed content, e.g., instead of downloading video at 4K HD, reduce the resolution to 1080p or even 720. All of this can be done in the settings. Likewise, the Starlink user can monitor data usage and status of their account within the Starlink app.

While Starlink subscribers can add additional data at a cost of $0.25 per gigabyte, that seemingly modest price equals $250 per Terabyte.

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Bill
24 days ago

Most users will not use more than 4-500 megabytes even with lots of streaming and working online.

Wolfe
17 days ago
Reply to  Bill

I assume you meant 4-500GB/month — I have no trouble burning a couple GB an hour when seriously (eg. downloading an OS update?) but not abusively using it. But yes, I don’t “seriously use it” hour after hour and day after day to reach 1000 of those.

Wolfe
17 days ago
Reply to  Wolfe

I stand self-corrected!!! Upon actually LOOKING at the log, I have (as of this writing 20 days into November) averaged 27.3GB/day, 12GB the lowest day. So, at that rate, 800-850GB is fully expected. Not 1TB, but much closer than I thought it would be.

Dave
25 days ago

I don’t understand the controversy. Comcast limits us 1.2 TB/month for the average residential user, so the 1 TB limit wouldn’t be unusual. We stream a good bit and have never gone over this 1.2TB.

Ron
25 days ago

Suckers.

Les
25 days ago

The intention for Starlink is for residential use where internet access is limited or non-existent. I live in the boonies where Hughesnet and Viasat are the only internet providers. There is no cable or fiber optic here. Those two services cost $100-125 for 20-30 gigabytes and slow speeds. Want to stream a movie with H or V? Nope. For $110 Starlink is a godsend to us. All of our TV is through Starlink and channel subscriptions and we use maybe 150 gigs a month for the 2 of us and I work from home. How in the world is anyone using more than 1 terabyte a month!!!???

Michael
25 days ago

For those of us RVers who spend an appreciable time in one place, the RV program may not be the way to. RV service is $135 per month for basic, non-prioritized service. Residential service costs $110 per month and comes with 1 TB of prioritized service, followed by basic, non-prioritized service. For $25 per month ($135 total), a residential customer can add ‘portability’.

This means that when out of their residential area, they receive the same non-prioritized, basic service as an RV account. When they return to their ‘home’ area, they can get prioritized service again and save $25 per month.

The real difference between portability and RV service is that RV service can be ‘paused’ for monthly intervals. Portability for residential service can be added and removed. Residential service cannot be paused, but can be cancelled. If a customer tries to reinstate a cancelled account, they may not be able to, depending on whether their geographic area has openings for service.

Donald
25 days ago

Good article about Starlink. You neglected to tell others that you can now monitor your usage from your account>Manage>and it will show your data usage as a daily and cumulative number. So you will see how close your coming to the 1TB number. It also shows your off peak data on a daily basis. This was not possible before.