It’s potentially the biggest thing to hit rural Alberta since cable television and private telephone lines.Starting next year customers in three rural counties will be eligible to sign up for Starlink satellite internet system. Starlink is owned by SpaceX which in turn is owned by the world’s richest man, Elon Musk.Up until March, residents and businesses of County of Forty Mile, County of Warner No. 5 and Cardston County can apply to be part of the pilot, which will test the use of satellite internet technology instead of fibre and fixed wireless technologies.The Alberta government will chip in $1,000 per eligible household to cover the cost of of the Starlink hardware, including shipping and taxes..It’s all part of a plan to improve access to reliable high speed internet — defined as download speeds of 50 megabits per second — in all parts of Alberta by 2027. In a news release, Technology and Innovation Minister Nate Glubish said universal coverage is expected to generate up to $1.7 billion in GDP, including a 5% bump to the agricultural sector from the adoption of new technologies.“Advancing satellite internet technology in Alberta is an important milestone and an innovative way to achieve our goal of universal connectivity by 2027. Today, connectivity is everything and Alberta’s government is proud to provide rural Alberta with another option to eliminate the connectivity gap,” said Glubish.“Access to high-speed internet is vital to economic growth in rural communities and this pilot program represents another way that communities that don’t have fibre connections can get access to critical connectivity quickly,” added Shauna Feth, president and CEO, Alberta Chambers of Commerce.Up to 2,000 long-term service industry jobs are expected in rural communities, while more than 120,000 students will have improved access to remote education.The pilot is limited to households and businesses located in specific areas in the counties where land-based internet infrastructure is not yet possible. Only underserved households and businesses within the designated areas who meet the criteria are eligible for the pilot.SpaceX started launching nearly 12,000 satellites in 2019 covering 60 countries. It aims to have global mobile phone service after this year. Canada granted it regulatory approval in November of 2020.