Ukrainians Are Paying For Starlink Themselves Say Charity Workers In Rebuff To Musk

Ramish Zafar
The Falcon 9 cuts through cloud cover to provide for breathtaking visuals as part of a Starlink launch earlier this year. Image: SpaceX

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In the midst of the latest media controversy surrounding SpaceX's chief Mr. Elon Musk, a blogger from Ukraine has revealed that she and others have been regularly paying for Starlink internet. Starlink shipped its user dishes to Ukraine immediately in the aftermath of the devastating Russian invasion, and since then, usage in the war-torn country has spiked as both civilian and military users continue to rely on the service for their communications needs. Mr. Musk landed himself in a fresh bout of controversy lately, when he suggested a potential resolution to the conflict, and a fresh report from CNN that surfaced earlier today added fuel to the fire by claiming that SpaceX had asked the Pentagon to foot its bill for providing Ukrainians with internet coverage.

Ukrainians Reveal They're Paying For Starlink As Musk Outlines Whopping $20 Million Monthly Burn Rate For Providing Service

In a series of tweets that show her bank statements, Ukrainian blogger Melaniya Podolyak shares that she has regularly been paying for Starlink connectivity. The bank statements cover some payments made in July and August and start from the 17th of July to end on August 4th. They show that payments ranging from $686 to $98 (based on today's exchange rate) were made during the time period and it's unclear whether they were all made for one connection or for multiple users.

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The blogger was joined by the head of a Ukrainian military charity fund who shared that his time spent on the battlefield also revealed interesting statistics for the number of Ukrainians who continue to pay for Starlink during the time of war.

Dimko Zhluktenko, who quit his job earlier this year to work as a volunteer supplying the Ukrainian army, had spent more than $200,000 in funding the army's need for high-technology gear. His work places him in close contact with soldiers on the frontlines, and Zhluktenko outlined that Starlink continues to be a game changer for the Ukrainian military since it provides them with connectivity in far-flung areas and at long distances that are unsuitable for radios.

In a series of tweets, he revealed that he is yet to come across a user terminal that was supplied by either a government agency or an aid agency. He went on to add that all the user terminals that he has come across so far were either bought by volunteers like himself, or by the soldiers themselves who paid for them out of their own pocket.

Additionally, Zhluktenko states that subscription fees are also being paid out of pocket, and during his work supplying the Ukrainian army, he has delivered more than 50 dishes and he also continues to pay the subscription fee for some of them from his own card. The fee sits at $60 per month, and users in the U.S. pay a monthly fee of $110 for the regular package with a dish cost of $600. Starlink also offers business packages, with these dishes costing $2,500 and the subscription costing $500 per month.

Zhluktenko adds that while Ukrainians continue to pay the same for Starlink as other global users, he is surprised that only his country is mentioned by Musk.

SpaceX has shipped close to 25,000 Starlink user dishes to Ukraine, and CNN's report which quoted a letter sent by SpaceX to the Pentagon revealed that the company is footing 70% of the costs of providing monthly internet coverage to Ukrainians.

Musk had claimed earlier that SpaceX had funded an $80 million bill for providing Starlink services to Ukraine, and his more recent comments share the monthly cost that the internet service, which is yet to turn a profit, is bearing.

According to the executive, it costs Starlink $20 million per month to operate Starlink in Ukraine, and as part of these operations, it has to defend against cyberattacks, arrange for Internet coverage with telecommunications providers and launch more satellites.

In addition to terminals, we have to create, launch, maintain & replenish satellites & ground stations & pay telcos for access to Internet via gateways. We’ve also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder. Burn is approaching ~$20M/month.

2:44 AM · Oct 14, 2022 ·Twitter for iPhone

SpaceX's support for Ukraine has also landed it in the crosshairs of Russia's representatives to the United Nations, who have warned that the Starlink satellite internet constellation might be targeted by the Russian military. The Defense Department, on the other hand, is displeased with SpaceX, with officials believing that the company continues to take credit for helping Ukrainians while recovering its costs from the government.

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