A row has erupted over the cost of Starlink satellite internet services in Ukraine after billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX said it could no longer keep funding the service as it has been.
CNN obtained documents showing that SpaceX requested the US Department of Defense to fund Ukraine’s use of Starlink.
According to the report, Musk’s company says it needs $120 million to maintain Ukraine’s use of the service for the rest of 2022. .
“We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” CNN quoted a SpaceX letter to the Pentagon.
While in the letter the company acknowledges that most of Starlink terminals are provided and paid for by foreign governments and volunteers, SpaceX claims it covered about 70% of service fees, CNN reports.
An avalanche of responses
The claims prompted a wave of discontent in the community of volunteers that purchased Starlink services for the Ukrainian military.
According to multiple charities and individuals involved with crowdfunding Starlink terminals and providing them to the military, Ukrainian volunteers and soldiers have been paying for the service themselves.
“I have bought over 50 StarLinks, with official prices right from the website in EU countries – Poland, CZ, Germany – like 400-500 bucks each, then enable portability for extra IIRC 50$, then payed monthly fee of 60$ (was 120$ before). It’s the same for everyone else in EU,” Dimko Zhluktenko, the head of Dzuga’s Paw charity fund, tweeted in his response to the development.
“Yes. I have bought 2 starlinks by myself. And every month I pay for service,” Ukrainian entrepreneur Alexander Proschenko responded.
According to CNN, SpaceX claims it has been routinely providing Ukraine with more expensive services than required, such as allowing consumers to pay only $500 for a plan that costs $4,500 per month.
These plans allegedly provide the Ukrainian military, which has been relying on Starlink for communications, with better connectivity than regular consumer-grade plans that cost $60 per month.
However, Ukrainian volunteers dispute this claim as well, saying that non-consumer-grade Starlink services in Ukraine are few and far between.
“We bought and operate our own as well. I know of other units doing the same,” volunteer Ryan O’Leary tweeted.
Seems like it’s mostly Ukrainian servicemen and volunteers who pay for Starlink. Is Elon looking for an excuse to deny service to Ukraine and help Russia?
— Paul Massaro (@apmassaro3) October 14, 2022
“I would be VERY curious to see actual transparency on the process of getting StarLinks up and running in Ukraine, all the hidden costs that Elon claims. Because – Ukrainians pay the same price as everyone else but it’s only Ukraine that is a subject to discussion,” Zhluktenko concludes.