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Elon Musk, Ron DeSantis partner to put satellites in areas struck by Hurricane Ian

DeSantis announced that Elon Musk, the SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO, has donated 120 Starlink satellites
Tesla CEO Elon Musk attends the start of the production at Tesla's "Gigafactory"; on March 22, 2022, in Berlin.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk attends the start of the production at Tesla's "Gigafactory"; on March 22, 2022, in Berlin. [ PATRICK PLEUL/POOL/AFP | (Patrick Pleul/POOL/AFP/Getty Im ]
Published Oct. 1|Updated Oct. 2

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has struck a partnership with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration to provide satellite service for areas of Southwest Florida still without internet connectivity after Hurricane Ian.

More than 100 of SpaceX’s large Starlink satellite receivers will be set up across Southwest Florida, with the majority going to Lee, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto and Hardee counties, DeSantis said in a news conference Saturday afternoon.

DeSantis said SpaceX donated the cost associated with installing the 120 large satellite receivers. Starlink’s satellites have a 13-mile radius and can support more than 1,000 internet users at a time, according to DeSantis.

Starlink doesn’t rely on fiber optics like cable technology and connects to a series of satellites that orbit close to the earth, according to their website.

Musk is repositioning the satellites to be over central Florida, DeSantis said during a stop in Wauchula. Nearly half of the cellular sites in Hardee County are out of service, the highest rate for any county in the state, according to data carriers report to the Federal Communications Commission.

“These things are very, very important,” DeSantis said of the Starlink devices. “We’re happy to be able to bring that here.”

In August, the Federal Communications Commission denied SpaceX about $888.5 million for rural subsidies related to the satellite systems after saying they failed to meet the program requirements, according to CNBC, though the FCC chair acknowledged Starlink had “promise.”

Musk has previously expressed support for DeSantis for president in 2024, tweeting that he was leaning toward Florida’s governor. He said that former President Donald Trump would be too old for a 2024 run, and said DeSantis would “easily win” against President Joe Biden if he ran.

Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, is estimated to be the richest person in the world with a net worth of about $247 billion. SpaceX has previously launched rockets and Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral on Florida’s east coast. He has not donated to DeSantis, but has previously given money to both Florida Republicans and Democrats, including Sen. Marco Rubio, former Sen. Bill Nelson, Charlie Crist in 2014 and Crist’s then-opponent for governor, Sen. Rick Scott.

Along with Musk and SpaceX, DeSantis said they’ve been working with other telecommunications companies to try to get connectivity back up. Uniti Fiber has offered free broadband access, and Verizon has provided drones for cell phone coverage, DeSantis said.

Times/Herald staff writer Lawrence Mower contributed to this report.

(Editor’s note: A previous version of this report misnamed the Starlink satellites.)

Related: DeSantis on Elon Musk 2024 support: ‘I welcome support from African Americans

• • •

Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage

HOW TO HELP: Where to donate or volunteer to help Hurricane Ian victims.

FEMA: Floridians hurt by Ian can now apply for FEMA assistance. Here’s how.

THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.

POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.

WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?

WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.

SCHOOLS: Will schools reopen quickly after Hurricane Ian passes? It depends.

MORE STORM COVERAGE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.

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