Just a week ago I wrote about the rapidly changing future for amateur radio emergency services due to the growth of wireless internet access provided by the Starlink service and its fleet of low-earth orbit satellites. Then came dangerous flooding in remote parts of Brazil. Did amateur radio send in the varsity squad to provide communication help? No. But a thousand Starlink terminals were sent to facilitate needed comms in the worst hit areas.

Elon Musk said that SpaceX will donate 1,000 Starlink terminals to emergency responders in Brazil to help after recent flooding, and the use of all terminals in the region will be free until there is recovery.

In another era it might have been ham radio providing that help and getting the credit for meritorious service along with copious ‘attaboys’ for the world of hobby radio. Instead, Elon Musk is snagging all those kudos and goodwill.

The takeaway being that “when all else fails” seems a lot less likely when there is an entire fleet of satellites blanketing the planet and floating 300 miles above the fray of atmospheric disturbances. Delivering high-speed internet service to remote parts of the planet (that could only be accessed by HF radio in the “old days”) is a game-changer, especially for those ham radio enthusiasts who have devoted themselves to supporting emergency communications.

That’s not to say that hams no longer have a role to play, that work just might look a lot different in another five years. And we should never forget that while the Starlink satellites operate in space, the corporation is subject to business conditions on terra firma. A major stock market meltdown could change the trajectory of the service. And with an eccentric and volatile owner, sudden receipt of news that it was going out of business would shock few watchers.

Still, it’s a major shift in communication technology and one that hams shouldn’t ignore. The last thing we need is to appear to be a bunch of sour old men waving our handhelds at the heavens and cursing the magic of internet service being delivered from space. We need to find a way to use this paradigm shift to our advantage (if we want to continue hitching our wagon to EMCOMM) and that will likely take the form of using what we’re good at, radio, to fill in the gaps that will invariably appear in any such technology-based solution.

The future is here.