Starlink to charge users in "limited-capacity" areas $30 more than others

Starlink to charge users in
Feb 2023

Starlink notified users of new monthly prices in which people who live in "limited-capacity" areas will pay $30 more per month than users in "excess-capacity" areas. The changes consist of a price hike for many users and a decrease for others.

The original price of Starlink was $99 a month, but SpaceX has been charging all residential users $110 since a price hike imposed in March 2022. Emails sent yesterday and today notified residential users of a "$10 increase in areas with limited capacity" for a new price of $120 a month, and a "$20 decrease in areas with excess capacity" for a new price of $90 a month.

The email to users in limited capacity areas said, "As a current customer in an area with limited capacity, your monthly service price will increase to $120/month beginning April 24, 2023. For new customers in your area, the price increase is effective immediately. If you do not wish to continue service, you can cancel at any time on your account page."

The email noted that SpaceX's ongoing launches of satellites will increase capacity and that "the Starlink team is making continuous network updates to improve performance over time." But it didn't say anything about whether a limited-capacity area could become an excess-capacity area or vice versa.

While speeds can vary a lot by area, the change generally means that users who receive the lowest speeds will pay the highest prices. However, the price hike and the Starlink email's invitation to cancel service could reduce the number of customers in congested areas, possibly increasing average speeds for the remaining users. Average Starlink speeds have dropped as more users sign up for the satellite service, speed-test data shows.

Users lament price hike and lack of choice

A Starlink customer in South Carolina, near Columbia, received the limited-capacity email and shared it with Ars. "Can't say I'm happy about it but also don't have much of a choice," said the customer, Andy, who preferred that we not publish his last name.

Andy said he lives in a low-density rural area where "AT&T DSL that barely works is the only other option I have." He also told us that Starlink speeds have "dropped quite a bit" since he started using it in April 2021.

Download speeds that used to be 200 to 250Mbps are down to about 90 to 100Mbps, while uploads have dropped from about 25 to 30Mbps to 8 or 9Mbps, Andy said. He's seen upload speeds as low as 4Mbps during the 4 pm to 8 pm hours, he said. "I've seen a lot more buffering lately when watching shows on HBO Max in the evening," he said.

While some users may cancel instead of paying more, "for those that have no choice it's just another cost increase and the second increase in less than a year," Andy said.

Starlink's coverage map shows that large parts of the US are on a waitlist, which may indicate the areas deemed to be low-capacity. Starlink claimed to serve virtually the whole US in its submissions for the Federal Communications Commission's national broadband map.

The price increase/decrease email spurred lots of discussion on the Starlink subreddit. "This increase puts me at double what my old ISP [charged], but they had a monopoly on my area and only provided 6Mbps," one user wrote, adding that actual speeds under the previous ISP were about 2Mbps. "I hope this isn't a yearly thing. Inflation has already nullified my last two raises, this isn't making it any easier," the user wrote.

"Price goes up and quality goes down. This feels familiar," another person wrote in the Reddit thread.