SpaceX, state bring broadband to Hoh Tribe on Olympic Peninsula

Oct 8, 2020, 1:56 PM

SpaceX Starlink, Hoh Tribe...

The SpaceX Starlink test launch. (SpaceX Flickr)

(SpaceX Flickr)

For the first time ever, the Hoh Tribe on the Olympic Peninsula is zooming around the web with high-speed internet.

That’s thanks to a partnership between the Washington State Department of Commerce’s Broadband Office and SpaceX Starlink.

It may seem hard to believe in the year 2020, but some communities in Washington still do not have access to stable internet. That’s why the Broadband Office is bringing high-speed internet to rural and underserved areas around the state, with the goal of getting everyone connected by 2024.

The Hoh Tribe, located about 26 miles south of Forks, was one of those places.

Internet proves necessary to ‘participate in life’ during pandemic

“We’re very remote — the last eight years, I felt like we have been paddling upriver with a spoon, almost getting nowhere with getting internet to the reservation,” said Melvinjohn Ashue, vice chair of the Hoh Tribe.

State Broadband Office Director Russ Elliott said he reached out to SpaceX, which is based in Hawthorne, California but has an office and factory in Redmond. The company’s 700 Starlink satellites currently provide broadband to northern latitudes, but SpaceX’s eventual goal is to make this global.

“We introduced Starlink folks to the Hoh Tribe; the Hoh Tribe shared their story,” he said. “Starlink felt compelled to come out and see what they could do.”

The result was life-changing.

“It seemed like out of nowhere, SpaceX just came up and just catapulted us into the 21st century,” Ashue said.

Ashue said broadband access is critical for allowing residents to access online schooling, tele-health, and remote work during the pandemic.

“Our youth are able to do education online, participate in videos,” he said. “Tele-health is no longer going to be an issue, as well as tele-behavioral health, tele-mental health.”

SpaceX also brought free broadband to Malden last month after wildfires destroyed most of the town.

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SpaceX, state bring broadband to Hoh Tribe on Olympic Peninsula