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UK Extension, Starlink team up to bring Wi-Fi to emergency workers

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University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service
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Nathan Wynn, left, and Mark Machek, University of Kentucky west regional extension information technology contacts, install Starlink kits in tornado-ravaged Western Kentucky.

Many west Kentucky residents are still suffering from a loss of utilities due to last weekend’s tornado outbreak with some still lacking service from their internet providers. The University of Kentucky’s Extension offices have partnered with Starlink – a satellite internet constellation provided by SpaceX – to supply kits to first responders and emergency management officials that will get them back online.

These Starlink kits will give agencies access to high data rate internet through the use of Starlink’s global network of advanced satellites circling in low orbit.

The University of Kentucky is working closely with Kentucky Emergency Management and the nonprofit Connected Nation to maximize the effect these kits will have on the region. Connected Nation provides tools and assistance to local, state and federal agencies in bringing the gaps in their broadband and digital technology efforts.

Laura Stephenson is the associate dean and extension director for the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. She said she’s thankful the region is getting the help it deserves.

“We are so grateful that Starlink has provided this connectivity to our hard-hit communities,” she said in a statement.

Brittany Osborne is the 4-H Agent for Youth Development at the McCracken County Extension office. She said her role in helping the operation is calling local agencies to offer assistance through Starlink’s services.

“Starlink is a vital service because it provides instant internet connectivity,” Osborne said. “This ensures that emergency personnel and first responders are able to communicate in time when all other infrastructure has been destroyed.”

The kits will be in affected areas for the next two months. After that, the Starlink team will reassess whether or not the kits will still be needed.

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