SOAR and SpaceX announce partnership

Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 2:52 PM EDT
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BELL COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) recently announced a partnership with SpaceX through a grant with the Kentucky Department for Public Health Office of Health Equity.

The two organizations launched a pilot project in rural Bell County, wanting to bring better telehealth opportunities.

“With new connectivity, they’ll now have access to telehealth services,” SOAR Executive Director Colby Hall said. “They have traditionally been unattainable for them and that’s the scope of the project.”

30 homes in the county will be receiving broadband through Starlink.

Hall said households within a 10-mile radius of Pineville were chosen.

“Our most remote residents, our most remote households,” he said. “The folks that are very hard to reach, that traditional wired internet service, it’s going to be really challenging for providers to reach them both time and cost.”

Hall said they wish they could provide everybody with better internet service.

“When you get emails from folks that have been looking for something for years. Just waiting for an opportunity and they appreciate you trying,” he said. “You wish you could do more for them, so, that parts been hard to hear from them.”

County officials said it was a great win for the county and will bring connectivity instantly.

“These broadband hardwire projects, they’re going to take a while to get up and, in the ground, or hanging on a pole,” Judge-Executive Albey Brock said. “We just agreed with SOAR that we wanted to be a part of this.”

Brock said they wanted this to give more broadband opportunities.

“Was it reliable, were the up and down speeds what’s being proposed? So, I guess, the jury’s still out on what the future holds as it applies,” he said. “We’ll just have to wait until the pilots over and go from there.”

Hall said the partnership has been a great experience.

“Allowing them to, in all of our discussions, to say that this is for them. This is who we need to be thinking about, then I would consider that a huge win,” he said. “I think all of our partners that we’ve worked on with this, would agree with that as well.”

Hall said participants will have the internet service free for the first 12 months. Afterwards, they can choose to continue using the service but will have to pay the $99 a month fee.

The goal is to have everything set up and running in the next four to six weeks.

As of now, one of the 30 households has its internet setup.

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