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From his cattle farm six hours west of Brisbane, Peter Thomson laughs at the thought of replacing his job with a Tesla, but he’s happy to pay $140 a month into Elon Musk’s back pocket.

While Twitter users around the world boycotted the billionaire, who controversially bought the social platform before immediately firing more than 3,000 employees and restoring Donald Trump’s membership, rural Australians weren’t so quick to crack Musk’s product.

Reason. Its Internet service works where competitors’ services do not.

Starlink uses thousands of low-orbit satellites to connect people in remote areas and is now available across Australia.

After years of struggling with multiple Internet modems, data-sharing SIM cards and other WIFI boosting tools, Mr. Thompson was at his wits’ end until he was introduced to Musk’s Internet provider.

“We used to spend an absolute fortune, up to $2,500 a month, to get enough data to run our farming business,” Mr Thompson said.

Peter Thompson is increasingly incorporating technology into his remote farming operations.(Provided by: Peter Thompson)

The Thompsons installed their own Starlink service in May. They can’t believe what a difference it has made.

“To put it simply, it’s bloody fantastic,” Mr Thompson said.

“I think everybody has an opinion about Elon Musk’s personality, but here’s one thing that works really, really well for us.

“Before this we had NBN SkyMuster but the big problem with that was very high ping speeds.”

Same as the city, after all

The ping rate, or the time it takes for a signal to reach the satellite and back again, is generally about 32 milliseconds.

But Mr Thompson found it to be about 700 milliseconds on the NBN service.

the phone in the paddock
A farm worker uses his phone on Thompson’s property, 80 km from the nearest town.(Provided by: Peter Thompson)

Now their internet connection is as fast as in metropolitan and regional areas.

“We have family and friends in town that we used to envy because of them [internet connection]but now we are the same as them,” Mr Thompson said.

“Now we have speed and reliability, we can do virtual meetings, e-mail. emails, video streams. everything that people in the city take for granted.”

Mr Thompson, however, accepts the costs.

“We probably pay twice what someone would pay in the city,” he said.

But he says it’s all about context for them.

“Compared to what we were paying three years ago, and all the systems we had to test and test, I’m quite happy to pay $140 a month.”

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The decision to switch providers

On her family’s grain and cattle property near Glenmorgan in Queensland’s Western Downs, it’s not the price of Starlink that’s deterring Wendy Henning, but the thought of switching internet providers again.

“Exhaustion is probably a good way to put it,” Ms. Henning said.

Their internet setup is like a maze, he explains.

The Hennings use NBN SkyMuster for their WIFI which is connected via mobile reception which, as they are in a reception black spot, comes in the form of a Telstra booster.

Annabelle Henning
Annabelle Henning regularly has to connect to the Internet from her phone data.(Provided by: Wendy Henning)

“That means if the power goes out, which it tends to do, we have no reception and no internet,” he said.

Despite the high price paid for the complex system and the poor internet connection it provides. family has to resort to portable hotspots when the weather is cloudy or windy, Ms. Henning says she’s not rushing to the latest gadget on the market. .

“After so many years of being sold various solutions as the golden egg for our connectivity problems, I could be a bit cynical,” he said.

Jennifer Medway, who runs the Regional Tech Hub, says Starlink benefits everyone in rural and remote areas, not just those who sign up for it.

“Any competition or new way of doing business certainly disrupts the market somewhat, but that’s good,” he said.

“It certainly encourages other providers to step up their services so they don’t fall, and I think it makes it a lot easier for similar types of satellite companies to come in.”

Attracting people to the bush

Back in their Gypsy home, the Thompsons say a reliable Internet connection is more than just Netflix that’s free of buffering.

Silhouette of a cow standing under a large tree against a gloomy sunset
Mr Thompson said good internet could help attract more people to the bush.(ABC News. Matt Roberts)

“We’re always looking for ways to attract people to live and work here and this is great,” Mr Thompson said.

Her daughter and her husband retreated to the farm during COVID-19, and now they can both stay and work remotely.

“It means one of the couple can work in agriculture and the other can continue their career from here,” Mr Thompson said.

“So why not come, live in the country, have some space and fresh air?

“We can honestly almost say you’re going to have a good connection, possibly even better than what you have in your little unit in downtown Brisbane or Sydney.”



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