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Elon Musk’s Starlink is keeping Ukraine families connected. Here’s who pays for it

The details of how Elon Musk-founded Starlink's services in Ukraine were being funded were revealed recently when the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said that it has...

April 10, 2022 / 02:43 PM IST
Ukrainians stand surrounding a Starlink equipment. (Image credit: @FedorovMykhailo/Twitter)

Ukrainians stand surrounding a Starlink equipment. (Image credit: @FedorovMykhailo/Twitter)

Mykhailo Fedorov, the Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, recently shared that in a recently-liberated town which still lacks electricity, internet and mobile communications, Elon Musk's Starlink has been helping families stay connected.

"The village of Ivankiv, Kyiv region, right after RU occupation. Operation of electricity and mobile communications has not been yet restored, but Starlink came on time," Fedorov tweeted.

The youngest member of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s cabinet also thanked the tech billionaire and said that his help is "priceless" for the war-torn country.

Elon Musk had in February activated Starlink satellite internet services in Ukraine after Mykhailo Fedorov pleaded with him to help resist Russia’s invasion.

Starlink's terminals help a user connect to the internet through the company's constellation of satellites without the need for a cable connection. While expensive to deploy, it can provide internet for people who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach.

There have, however, been questions regarding who has been paying for the expensive service.

The details were revealed recently when the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said on April 6 it has provided 5,000 Starlink satellite internet terminals to Ukraine in partnership with Elon Musk's SpaceX.

The US agency said SpaceX donated 3,667 terminals and the internet service itself, while USAID purchased the remaining 1,333 terminals, Reuters reported.

While it initially called it a “private sector donation valued at roughly $10 million,” USAID did not specify how much it is contributing for the equipment or its transportation costs, reported The Washington Post.

According to the report, the US agency agreed to buy around 1,500 standard Starlink terminals for $1,500 per piece and to pay $800,000 for transportation costs, documents show, adding up to over $3 million in taxpayer money.

Moreover, USAID spokesperson Rebecca Chalif had stated that “delivery of Starlink terminals were made possible by a range of stakeholders, whose combined contributions valued over $15 million and facilitated the procurement, international flights, ground transportation, and satellite Internet service of 5,000 Starlink terminals.”

SpaceX, however, did not return a request for comment on the arrangement and the specific financials of the deal.

Ankita Sengupta
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