SpaceX could soon provide in-flight WiFi to airline passengers via its Starlink satellite internet service, The Verge first reported on Wednesday.
Elon Musk’s space company was in talks with commercial airlines to beam Starlink internet to their airplanes, Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX’s vice president of Starlink and commercial sales, said during the Connected Aviation Intelligence Summit on Wednesday, per the Verge.
“We’re in talks with several of the airlines,” Hofeller said. “We have our own aviation product in development … we’ve already done some demonstrations to date, and looking to get that product finalized to be put on aircraft in the very near future.”
SpaceX plans to use airline antennas, which work in a similar way to existing user terminals but have “obvious enhancements for aviation connectivity,” Hofeller said. The company would design and build tech specific for aircraft, he added.
SpaceX would start connecting each Starlink satellite with laser links that don’t need to bounce off ground stations. This would mean airplanes flying over remote areas, such as oceans, can still offer in-flight internet.
“The next generation of our constellation, which is in work, will have this inter-satellite connectivity,” Hofeller said during the summit, per The Verge.
Hofeller said that low-Earth orbit satellites, including Starlink’s network, would outperform existing geostationary satellites.
“It’s going to be up to the individual airline whether they want to be responsive to that, or if they’re okay with having a system that is not as responsive to their customers’ demand,” he said.
SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment about which airlines they were in talks with.
In March, the space company requested in a filing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it connect moving vehicles, including planes, ships, and large trucks, to Starlink, a constellation which could have up to 42,000 satellites in orbit by mid-2027.
“No longer are users willing to forego connectivity while on the move,” SpaceX director of satellite policy, David Goldman, said in the FCC request.
Amazon Sidewalk is a shared public mesh network developed to extend the connectivity and reliability of low-bandwidth smart devices, even if they’re out of range or your Wi-Fi goes down.
To accomplish this wide-range shared network, Amazon takes a small portion of internet bandwidth from homes with Sidewalk-enabled devices, ultimately creating one, big public mesh network.
The service runs by turning devices, like Echo speakers and Ring cameras, into what the company calls Sidewalk Bridges. Think of them as network bridges that keep everything connected.
Here is a list of devices that double as Sidewalk Bridges:
Ring Floodlight Cam
Ring Spotlight Cam Wired
Ring Spotlight Cam Mount
Third generation and newer
Third generation and newer
Echo Dot for Kids
Third generation and newer
Echo Dot with Clock
Third generation and newer
All models and generations
In terms of data, Amazon says that the maximum bandwidth shared between neighbors is small. Amazon is capping the total monthly data used by Sidewalk to 500 megabytes, which is the same as streaming 10 minutes of HD video.
By sharing a sliver of your internet bandwidth with your neighbors, the idea is your devices can work over a much greater range. But it’s also this aspect of Sidewalk – sharing your home’s internet bandwidth with strangers – that concerns some users.
How to turn off Amazon Sidewalk
By default, compatible devices will automatically have Sidewalk enabled. But if you want to opt out of the service, you can turn it on or off quickly through the Alexa and Ring apps.
On the Alexa app
1. On your phone, open the Alexa app and tap More.
2. Select Settings and then tap Account Settings.
3. Tap Amazon Sidewalk and tap Disable.
On the Ring app
1. On your phone, open the Ring app and tap the three lines in the upper left-hand corner of your screen.
2. Select Control Center and then tap Sidewalk.
3. Tap the Sidewalk slider button.
4. Confirm your decision in the screen that appears.
Apple introduced AirPlay as a feature over a decade ago, but it still remains one of the most convenient ways to share media across Apple devices and other compatible systems.
What is AirPlay?
AirPlay is a feature that allows Apple devices (commonly iPhones) to share media – like videos, images, and music – to other devices like TVs and monitors for dual screen mode, as long as they’re all within the same network. This means AirPlay can only work if both devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network, within Bluetooth range, or connected to the same router using an ethernet cable.
For example, if you want to stream music to a Bluetooth speaker from your iPhone, AirPlay is a convenient way to do it. The same goes for videos: If you’re watching a YouTube video on your iPad but want to watch it on a bigger screen, AirPlay is the quickest way to maintain seamless viewing.
AirPlay is similar to Apple’s Airplay mirroring, but screen mirroring is typically used to copy an entire display to another device, like a projector or TV.
How to use AirPlay
From an iPhone to a TV: With the selected media open, find the AirPlay icon and select it. Under “Speakers & TVs” select the device you want to AirPlay the media to.
From an iPhone to a Mac computer: There is no direct way to AirPlay from an iPhone to a Mac, but you can download a third-party app or use Apple screen mirroring.
AirPlay is one of the easiest ways to share and stream media from one device to a speaker, television, or projector.
If the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or ethernet connection remains strong, content can be streamed rather seamlessly and without lag.
All new iOS devices support AirPlay, and the feature doesn’t require any setup or configuration like some other streaming outputs.
Disadvantages of AirPlay
AirPlay can only be used from one app at a time – this means you can’t stream a YouTube video to your Apple TV while also simultaneously streaming Spotify to a Bluetooth speaker.
Depending on your Wi-Fi connection, AirPlay can struggle and occasionally drop off or freeze entirely, which may require troubleshooting.
Perhaps the biggest con is that AirPlay is almost entirely exclusive to Apple; non-Apple devices may have to download additional software to use AirPlay.
How to troubleshoot when AirPlay isn’t working
If AirPlay isn’t working, you may need to troubleshoot the involved Apple or AirPlay-compatible devices, or even reset your Wi-Fi router. See our AirPlay troubleshooting guide for directions and further information.
From old faithful satellite internet, to boosting cell phone signal, to jimmying together some wild antenna rigs, I’ve seen or tried just about everything.
Here’s how to establish a work-from-homeable internet connection from any address in the union.
Satellite internet, a gift and a curse
Satellite internet will work from just about anywhere. Providers like Hughes Net and Viasat provide speeds of up to 25 mbps on downloads and 3 mbps for uploads. This is about 80% lower than the average speed across the US, which sits at around 120 mbps. Big downloads can take a while, but for web browsing and sending and receiving moderate amounts of data, it’ll do. Also, Hughes Net or Viasat can probably get a technician out to install the dish on your house within five business days. Satellite internet is almost a one-punch knockout as far as rural connections go … almost.
Because your data is flying to a satellite dish and back, there’s a noticeable .7 to .9 of a second of latency with satellite internet. Prepare to be even more annoying on Zoom calls than you ever thought possible. Also, satellite internet providers usually have a soft data cap, after which you’ll have to pay about $3 a GB extra. Finally, satellite internet gets worse with the weather; snow, clouds, rain and storms will all hurt performance.
Satellite internet costs about $70 to $150 a month depending on the provider and how much data you use, plus an install or equipment rental cost that can get up to $400. But, because satellite internet makes you sound awful on calls and can drop out at any time due to weather, you’ll need to augment your connection.
There’s a small chance that Elon Musk has already saved you, or is about to
In my case, my internet woes just about ended when I was selected for the Starlink beta test. Starlink, which is internet service from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, is satellite internet that relies on tons of tiny satellites orbiting closer to earth, so there’s no noticeable lag or data caps.
Starlink is a slam dunk, but it’s only beta testing in the very northern part of the US. For now, there’s not much you can do besides sign up for the beta and hope.
Without latency-free internet, you’ll need to find a way to augment your satellite internet connection with landlines or cell signal.
How to measure a home’s cell signal
If the home has strong data service filling the bars on your cell phone, then congrats: Major cell phone providers have hotspot devices and data plans that will hook you up for good.
But say you want to work from a house where your phone gets zero bars and doesn’t say “LTE” or “3G” or “4G” in the corner. Then what?
Luckily, there are still products for you, but they’re a little more off the beaten path. You’re going to need a cell phone signal booster, and the best way to determine which is to do a field test.
A great cell phone signal measures in at about -50 decibels. Awful or nonexistent cell phone signal comes in at about -120, and it starts getting pretty unusable around -90.
How to boost a cell phone signal
If your signal is just a bit weak, products like Unlimitedville promise a hassle-free experience for users. Unlimitedville sells users a small MoFi box that amplifies incoming cell signals and turns it into a usable WiFi network like any other. I tried Unlimitedville and found the MoFi box severely underpowered, and the $249 monthly bill to be astronomical.
Frankly, you’re better off buying your own cell signal booster and working out the data costs with your carrier.
My signal was really weak, so I bought the WeBoost Installed Home Complete, the only commercial cell signal booster that comes with a professional install included, for about $1,200. The system can jack up cell signal by up to 72 decibels and provide an area of up to 7,500 sq feet with boosted cell service by using an outdoor directional antenna pointed at the nearest cell tower and an indoor amplifier.
Ultimately, even the big dog booster didn’t completely solve my problems. I get 2-3 bars and some choppy data and voice calls. I plan to raise the antenna up on a 10 foot pole to increase the range and make my house look even more ridiculous.
About 99% of the country has access to at least 3 mbps of data service via a nearby cell tower, so while boosting cell signal isn’t a perfect option, it’s a ubiquitous one. Almost anyone can do this.
You might not be able to solely work off your phone’s data, but you can use the data to answer some work emails, let your colleagues know you might be late to a meeting later, or look up the Zoom dial-in number before your big interview.
How to work off cell signal
If you successfully boost your cell phone signal to a workable level, you may not be out of the woods yet.
Even an “unlimited data” plan from a major provider may have some restrictions on “tethering,” or using a cell phone’s data connection to connect another device to the internet. Many carriers won’t let you use more than 5 or 10 GB of data a month over a tethered device.
Luckily, major carriers now offer devices and plans to accommodate large data asks from devices besides the handset you have under contract. Verizon’s plan costs $40-$60.
Or, if you want to avoid changing your data plan, get smart about data usage. 10 GB of data can go a long way if you use it wisely. Instead of tethering a device like a smart TV to a cell phone to watch Netflix for a few hours, simply play the Netflix app on your phone and cast your phone’s screen onto the TV. This will use the phone’s own data and not cut into your tethered data. The more you look for tricks like this, the more you will find.
Landlines and DSL
A solid phone line can make up for satellite internet’s bad lag time, and it’s relatively easy to get. Telephone wires are more common than broadband cable on many power lines in rural America. At our address, we’re also eligible for a 3 mbps DSL connection from our phone provider for $30 a month.
The 3 mbps number seems a bit sad, but our neighbor uses it to check his email and even do some low-resolution Zoom calls for work. Because DSL uses a wired connection, it has no lag, making it a solid compliment to satellite internet connections.
But with a landline, you may not even need DSL.
We keep a notebook with important numbers written down on the landline phone. Even if the power goes out, I can look up my boss’ number and keep him in the loop.
Beg, borrow, appeal
If your neighbors have good internet service and you don’t, you can always proposition them to set up an antenna that beams connectivity to your house. Obviously you’d ask nicely and offer to pay, because this method works.
If all else fails, find out what major internet service providers cover nearby areas and reach out to them. I called Xfinity to inquire about getting broadband to my house. To my surprise, they had trucks driving down my dirt road within a week. It turned out that despite my remote setting, houses just a few miles down the road had broadband and Xfinity was considering running the lines out my way.
Xfinity said I could pay about $30,000 to get connected or I could simply wait on state or federal funds to come through. There’s actually $10 billion in the recently passed American Rescue Plan to extend broadband to rural America, and many rural states have money set aside for this too.
Waiting for Xfinity could take years, but I was glad to have put in a request.
When I left NYC to live in the country, I never thought I’d be begging to deal with Xfinity again, but life is funny in that way.
Take it from me: Don’t let a bad internet connection stop you from living in a place that feels like home. Where there is a will, there’s a way – and the arc of history bends towards more WiFi.
Today it’s easier than ever to share files and photos across devices. With Apple devices, you can use AirDrop to send files – even ones too big for email – from an iPhone to a Mac or iPad with just a tap, as long as they are in range.
What’s in range? AirDrop uses a combination of both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to transmit files, so your iPhone, iPad, or Mac have to be within about 30 feet of each other.
Here’s everything you need to know about AirDrop and how to use it.
The majority of users access the internet using wireless devices, like phones or laptops. These devices connect to the internet using Wi-Fi, wireless signals that broadcast throughout your house.
But if you’ve been using the internet for a while – or you have a desktop computer that you don’t use Wi-Fi for – you’ll probably be using an Ethernet cable instead. Ethernet cables are wires that physically connect your computer to a router or modem.
Ethernet cables can seem clunky or restricting, but they can substantially improve the speed and stability of your internet.
Here’s what you need to know about Ethernet cables, how they work, and what makes them a handy alternative to Wi-Fi.
An Ethernet cable ‘hardwires’ your computer to an internet connection
An Ethernet cable, sometimes referred to as a network cable, is a cord that runs from a router, modem, or network switch to your computer, giving your device access to the local area network (LAN) – in other words, giving it internet access.
The benefit of hardwiring your internet connection is that it’s faster and more consistent. Without walls or other objects blocking your Wi-Fi signals, you don’t have to worry about sudden drops in internet speed.
Gaming with an Ethernet cable means less lag and faster loading times for multiplayer games. And every major game console can connect with an Ethernet port – although to connect a Nintendo Switch, you’ll need an adapter.
Just be careful not to unplug your cable while you’re using it, as doing so will disconnect you from the internet instantly. Luckily, Ethernet cables are made to snap snugly into place, so it’s hard to pull them out accidentally.
Ethernet cables come in a range of lengths and colors, but both sides of the cord are the same, regardless of the brand of cable or device you’re hardwiring.
Ethernet accessories can help you connect any device
Although newer, slender models of laptops don’t tend to have Ethernet ports, you can still utilize an Ethernet cable with a USB or USB-C adapter.
Another common accessory to pair with an Ethernet cable is a network switch. This add-on lets you convert an Ethernet connection into multiple ones, allowing you to, for instance, hardwire both your Xbox and Chromecast to the internet at the same time.
The advent of Wi-Fi was a great thing. It has granted easier internet access in harder-to-reach areas, made connecting new devices a breeze – and not to mention, reduced the amount of cables on our floors.
However, if you’re looking for the fastest and most consistent connection possible, you should still stick with an Ethernet cable. It’s less convenient, but boasts all sorts of advantages.
Ethernet is almost always faster than Wi-Fi
If you want a fast connection, you should consider connecting as many of your devices as possible to Ethernet. This is because Ethernet is nearly always faster than a Wi-Fi connection from the same router.
It’s true that radio waves are incredibly fast. But an Ethernet cable lets your devices send and receive data almost instantaneously. This is especially true if you have a fiber-optic connection.
This also means that it doesn’t matter how close or far you are from your router. As long as your Ethernet cable reaches, you’ll see little to no loss in speed.
You can compare Wi-Fi and Ethernet speeds by running a quick speed test using both connections. You’ll almost certainly find the Ethernet connection to be faster.
Our own quick test showed an Ethernet download speed almost double that of Wi-Fi.
Ethernet is more stable than a Wi-Fi signal
To use an analogy, an Ethernet cable is to Wi-Fi what a landline is to a cell phone. Rather than transmitting the signal wirelessly, an Ethernet cable carries your data via a cable electronically.
In short, this means that the data is less likely to get lost or degrade along the way. You also don’t have to worry about the signal being blocked or slowed down by nearby electronics or barriers.
Unless your Ethernet cable physically breaks, there’s not much that can disrupt it, short of a power outage.
Ethernet connections are likely more secure than Wi-Fi
Although a clever Wi-Fi network name like “FBI Surveillance Van” might dissuade some neighbors from trying to hack your network, you’re still more secure with an Ethernet connection.
Any Wi-Fi password can be hacked with enough effort, and since Wi-Fi signals pass through the open air, they can be intercepted. But to gain access to an Ethernet connection, you need to have the cable and the router. There’s no way to hack into Ethernet without a physical connection.
A lawsuit aimed at forcing New York City to provide WiFi for students in homeless shelters is moving forward to trial.
US District Judge Alison Nathan ruled last week that the class-action suit brought by homeless parents and the Coalition of the Homeless would proceed to expedited discovery in preparation for a trial.
“Without internet connectivity, homeless students are deprived of the means to attend classes,” Nathan wrote in the opinion that accompanied the decision. “And because homeless children who lack internet access and reside in New York City shelters cannot attend school for as long as that deprivation exists, the City bears a duty, under the statute, to furnish them with the means necessary for them to attend school.”
Some homeless students are still unable to access the internet from a shelter more than nine months since Mayor Bill de Blasio first announced remote learning on March 15, 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. New York City schools have approximately 114,000 homeless students according to an Advocates for Children report cited by the judge.
The city’s original plan was to provide iPads with unlimited cellular data to students without access to WiFi, first partnering with T-Mobile. After students weren’t able to access T-Mobile service in many shelters, the city switched to Verizon, but some students continued to be unable to connect to school.
On October 26, 2020 Mayor de Blasio announced that the city would install WiFi in all shelters, but officials cautioned this wouldn’t be complete until the summer of 2021.
“It should come as no surprise that the City lacked any real legal basis to prevent this lawsuit from proceeding,” said Susan Horwitz, supervising attorney of the education law project at the Legal Aid Society, wrote in a press release.
“Despite months of pushing the City to address the root cause of the problem, City Hall continues to advance ineffective solutions while families in shelters suffer. We look forward to seeing all shelters equipped with working WiFi, far in advance of the city’s stated goal of summer 2021.”
City officials said they are working to get Wifi to students in shelters.
“The court’s decision indicates that the city has worked hard to provide internet connectivity to the plaintiffs and is continuing to do so,” Paolucci, the spokesperson of New York City’s Law Department, wrote to Law & Crime.
Paolucci has not yet responded to Insider’s request for comment.
It can be hard to imagine or remember the days before Wi-Fi, when you had to run Ethernet cables throughout the house to connect computers to the internet and carry files around on CDs and portable hard drives (affectionately known as “sneakernet”).
These days, we take Wi-Fi for granted – right up until it stops working and brings our modern connected household to a complete stop.
How to fix Wi-Fi problems
Here are 10 ways to troubleshoot and solve common Wi-Fi problems.
Basic check: Is the Wi-Fi router running?
It’s not out of the question for the plug to have been accidentally pulled or the cat to have stepped on the power button. Make sure the Wi-Fi router’s lights are on.
Is the issue related to one device or all devices?
Fixing computer problems like Wi-Fi connection issues often comes down to the process of elimination. That’s why technical support technicians often start by asking silly and obvious questions like “is the computer plugged in?” Once you know the Wi-Fi is running, check to see if the problem happens on just one device or on all of them. If you can’t connect on your laptop, for example, check your phone to see if you can see Wi-Fi signal strength bars.
Send a ping to Google
One other easy thing you can check for: is the connection problem related to your Wi-Fi network or to your internet service provider’s internet signal? Your Wi-Fi network might be fine, for example, but the ISP’s internet may be out. To find out, run a ping test using a computer.
1. On your PC, click the Start button search box and type “CMD,” then press Enter.
2. In the Command Prompt window, type “ping Google.com.”
3. Wait for the result.
If you see an error message, you might not have a working internet connection; continue troubleshooting in the next section. If you see a reply from Google, then you have a working internet connection and the problem lies elsewhere.
You can also log into your account for your internet service provider to check if there’s an outage in your area. With many providers, a banner will appear at the top of your account page notifying you of an outage, or you can search for an outage map on the site.
Troubleshooting no service at all
This is unfortunately one of the more common problems people run into – the internet simply doesn’t work at all. If none of the devices or computers on your Wi-Fi network can connect, reset both the internet router and Wi-Fi (this might be one device or two different ones). Unplug them, wait two minutes, and plug them back in. If your Wi-Fi doesn’t start working again, the problem might be with your internet service provider – call customer service and let them troubleshoot.
Resolving slow or spotty internet in certain rooms
If your Wi-Fi drops out in certain parts of the house on a regular basis, the problem is almost certainly a “dead zone” caused by a router that can’t reach everywhere. If possible, move the router to a more central location in the house. Alternatively, you can add a Wi-Fi extender to increase the range of your router.
Troubleshooting slow or spotty internet at certain times of day
If your connection problem isn’t related to where you are in the house but is an intermittent problem at certain times of the day, the issue is likely related to a lack of bandwidth; too many devices are connected to the Wi-Fi network and using too much data. If three people are streaming Netflix on different devices at the same time, for example, there’s your culprit. If possible, connect devices with an Ethernet cable so they aren’t using Wi-Fi, or better yet, take one or more bandwidth hogs offline entirely.
Is your connection slow because of the Wi-Fi network or the ISP?
If you have a connection that’s noticeably slow, it can also be helpful to figure out if your poor performance is being caused by a slow internet connection provided by your ISP or if the Wi-Fi network in your home is not working properly. You can do this by running an internet speed test. Run the test at speedtest.net in any browser (on a computer or mobile device). If the internet speed seems normal (at least 10Mbps, for example) the issue is related to your Wi-Fi network, not the internet. Read our detailed guide on how to check the strength of your Wi-Fi for more information.
How to resolve issues with your router
It can be challenging to know exactly what is causing a problem with your Wi-Fi connection, and the router itself has some settings and configurations that might be “breaking” your Wi-Fi network. If possible, check on and update your router’s firmware. Most modern routers work with a simple mobile app you can use to check on the firmware and install any available updates. This can resolve issues with your connection reliability and speed. In addition, you can probably use the app to change the channels your router is using to broadcast on its various bands. If your connection is slow or intermittent, changing the channels might significantly improve your Wi-Fi service. For more information, read our article on how to boost your internet connection.
What to do if one device has trouble connecting
Make sure the device’s software is up to date. And if your router is a dual-band or tri-band device, try connecting to one of the other Wi-Fi bands. There are any number of reasons why a laptop might connect more easily to one of the 5GHz radios rather than the other, for example.
What to do if your game console can’t connect to Wi-Fi
Occasionally, consoles like the Xbox and PS4 can run into trouble connecting to Wi-Fi. Consoles can be affected by the same kind of glitches that affect PCs and mobile devices, but they generally only need to go to one internet location, so troubleshooting can be easier. Open a site like Downdetector in a web browser on your computer or a mobile device and use it to see if the Playstation Network or Xbox Live is down. If so, just wait for the site to come back up. Otherwise, reboot both the router and the console and move them closer together, if possible.