Could I trouble you for a cup of Starlink?

Starlink is a satellite internet service provided by SpaceX, which promises to provide high-speed internet connectivity to rural and remote areas. When we built our house here in rural Somerset, we attempted to get a BT line. That was a mistake, and my experience with BT was so so so bad that I never had a land line again. It was a clown show.

Clown. Show.

Anyway, since then I’ve run my entire household on a load-balanced 2x4G connection and it has been great. If you want more information (including how this blog is hosted) check out this blog’s title page.

I work from home in tech, and after mounting external antennas on my roof I was off to the races. Throughout Covid and beyond I have done absolutely everything over one of my two unlimited data contracts; hundreds of hours of video calls, orchestrating remote servers and managing teams of developers. The only issue was that every time I wanted to download anything over 20gb then I would take a device somewhere else to do it in a meaningful amount of time. To confirm, I would take this inconvenience over ever dealing with BT again in my lifetime. Clown. Show.

Then I got a chance to borrow Starlink from a friend. It worked really well so I purchased one. If you’re lucky enough to have a Starlink connection, you may be wondering about the feasibility of sharing it with your neighbours to offset hardware cost, monthly subscription and running electricity cost. In this blog post, we’ll explore the feasibility, potential benefits and drawbacks of sharing your Starlink connection with your neighbours.

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that sharing your internet connection with your neighbours may violate your internet service provider’s terms of service. You should also consider the potential security risks involved in sharing your connection. With that said, let’s explore the pros and cons of sharing your Starlink connection.

So what are the benefits of sharing Starlink it with your neighbours?

  1. Bandwidth. Basically landline = 7 Mbs, 4G = 20-30 Mbs, Starlink = 100-300 Mbs so this one is easy.
  2. Cost-sharing/saving: If you live in an area where internet connectivity options are limited, Starlink can be an expensive option. Sharing your connection with your neighbours can help split the cost of the service, making it more affordable for everyone.
  3. Space. Double the chances of unobscured sky view.
  4. You can pop down the local pub and talk of space internet in your special little clique. Aww, friends.

Cons of sharing your Starlink connection with your neighbours

  1. Bandwidth limitations: Starlink’s service may still impose data caps. Sharing your connection with your neighbours could put a strain on the bandwidth and affect the quality of the service for you both.
  2. Security risks: Sharing your internet connection with your neighbours could potentially expose your network to security risks over which you can’t exert your usual paranoia.
  3. Logistics. Exactly how you share the connection from a hardware perspective is very much dependant on the locale. From buried Cat5e running under my hedge to mesh networks to directed antennas; it can get complicated to cover even relatively short distances when you take into account obstructions.

If you decide to share your Starlink connection with your neighbours, here are a few tips to help you do it safely and effectively:

  1. Set up a separate network: Create a separate network to contain the simple Starlink WAN so your neighbours aren’t connected to your personal devices. My pfSense firewall’s WAN port forms the barrier between the shared network and my complicated spider’s web homelab network that I’d rather keep private.
  2. Set bandwidth limits: Limit the amount of bandwidth that your neighbours can use, to prevent network congestion. In my case neither side of the hedge are heavy users in terms of bandwidth, even working in tech, I am either on Slack or Terminal, no torrenting here. Both sides are casual TV streamers. If one side are likely to dominate in terms of usage, then deploying some additional hardware to equally share bandwidth should be considered.
  3. Talk and ensure everyone understands: It’s important that everyone involved understands the potential risks and limitations of sharing your connection, and that they are aware of what they are getting into. With Starlink subscription being a rolling plan, it’s easy to pass the no-obligation on. In my case we split costs 50/50 with a standing order.
  4. Have a backup plan: It’s also worth having a backup plan, such as a 4G connection, in case of any issues with the Starlink service. If you’re already deploying additional hardware onto the shared network then you can also add a failover. You might also both decide on a sleep period whereby 4G is used over night to conserve power.

In conclusion, sharing your Starlink connection with your neighbours can be a great way to split the cost of the service, improve connectivity, and build community spirit. However, it’s important to consider the potential drawbacks and take steps to mitigate any security risks.