Starlink announces a 1 TB data cap for users during peak daytime hours

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Chris Young
A SpaceX Starlink dish.
A SpaceX Starlink dish.

SpaceX 

SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet service recently raised its prices, citing inflation, and it's now introduced a data cap that may force some of its most demanding users to pay for its premium service. The data cap details are outlined in a new Starlink fair use policy update.

Despite SpaceX's record launch cadence over the last few months — the company beats its own record for most launches in a year with every successive launch from now until January — it has been struggling to keep the speed promises it originally made when it first launched Starlink.

Starlink introduces one TB data cap

Starlink refers to the new data cap as a one TB "Priority Access" monthly cap that goes into effect between seven am and 11 pm local time for each user. A legal document filed by the company shows that the cap will go into effect starting in December.

Essentially what that means is that anyone who goes over the one TB monthly cap before the end of the month will be relegated to "Basic Access" for the rest of the month. The cap will function in a similar fashion to that of phone providers who deprioritize a user's data once they pass a certain threshold. While the exact change in speed is not known and may depend on a lot of factors, this could greatly impact users who use a lot of data and require constant fast performance.

Anyone paying attention to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's Twitter overhaul — characterized by mass layoffs and premium tier payments — will know that a slogan of his is "your feedback is appreciated, now pay $8". The phrase not-so-subtly hints that Musk is unmoved by complaints regarding the new premium tier of Twitter, which will cost users $8 to be verified, among a number of other perks.

That same attitude may be making its way over to Starlink, with users being forced to pay for SpaceX's premium service if they want to retain a feature of the service they already held at the standard price. As a point of reference, standard Starlink costs users $110 per month, while Premium costs $500 per month for 500 Mbps internet. Under the new conditions, in order to retain "Priority Access" after passing the data cap, users will have to pay an extra 25 cents per gigabyte of priority data.

Different caps also apply to Starlink's other services. The fixed business service, for example, peak-hour caps ranging from 500GB to 3TB, with an added charge of $1 per gigabyte for full-speed access. Starlink Maritime, meanwhile, will have a 5TB cap, with every extra gigabyte afterward costing $2.

SpaceX's Starlink speed struggles

In September, reports emerged that Starlink users in the U.S. and Canada had seen their download speeds slow down significantly over previous months, with the issue likely being caused by congestion due to the satellite internet service's popularity.

A survey from internet speed tester Ookla showed that, in the U.S., Starlink's median download rate dropped from over 90 Megabits per second (Mbps) to about 62.5 Mbps between Q2 2021 and Q2 2022. Similar drops were seen in the other countries surveyed.

While it's understandable that SpaceX would have to set a data cap as more users flock to the service, Starlink is currently struggling to meet its promise of 100 Mb internet for many users, even at the standard price — so it's also understandable that many early adopters of the service will feel a little shortchanged.

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