When it comes to enjoying your property or home in Redhill Forest there are probably two different camps. The first is the “disconnect and get a way from it all” folks, and the second is the “want to have it all” group. Our family is most definitely in the latter.
We share our Redhill house with our adult son and daughter-in-law. We all live in downtown Denver and personally and professionally lead highly digital lives. Before we even broke ground on the Redhill house a couple of years ago I had already added my name to the Starlink sign-up list.
What’s different about Starlink?
Cable or phone Internet isn’t available in Redhill Forest so your choices are point-to-point wifi (South Park Telephone and Rise) or satellite (Hughes, ViaSat or Starlink). There are limitations to coverage and speed with point-to-point which may not be available to some lots. The older Hughes and ViaSat services beam data back and forth from satellites stationed about 23,000 miles above the equator. That means it takes a lot longer for signals to travel up and down and that delay (it’s called latency) means slow service. Very. . .slow. . .service.
Starlink’s concept is radically different, it relies on a growing constellation of satellites that zoom around the earth only 300 miles up. Think of it as a reverse cell phone system where you stay in one spot and the towers move by you. The Starlink technology means you get faster internet with very high response (low latency).
It’s surprisingly good
We have gigabit service where we live in downtown Denver (it’s overkill). Using Starlink in our Redhill home feels almost the same. Websites download quickly, music streams without interruption, and TV plays with very, very little buffering. Because most people are downloading content, Starlink is designed to be fast in sending you web pages and TV services. But, uploading is slower which isn’t a big deal unless you are moving big files l (like video). Where I’ve been seeing download speeds between 70-100Mbs, upload speeds are a poky 10Mbs. However, that’s good enough for participating in Zoom or Facetime calls.
You have to buy a kit from Starlink for $599. That includes the dish, a ground mount, 100’ of cable, and a modem/router. More than likely you will need a pole or roof mount. I bought the “Volcano Mount” for a roof installation. Once the service gets turned on it’s $110 a month with no data limits. It’s a little weird right now that there is a waiting list for residential service, but if you order the RV package (exactly the same as home) you can probably get a hardware kit right away. The downside is that the RV price is $135 a month. That’s $300 a year more. It’s been reported that a hardware kit costs over $2,000 to manufacture, so Starlink is clearly subsidizing hardware to build a bigger subscriber base.
A sleek looking modem/router connects with the small dish. You need to have an unobstructed view of the northeast sky. Ahead of turning the system on for the first time you need to download the Starlink app on your smartphone. Turn things on and fire up the app and follow the directions. The dish itself is motorized and will automatically search and point to the right satellite path. It’s also lightly heated which will keep snow from building up on it.
For most smaller homes, the Starlink router has a strong wifi signal. For bigger homes you may opt for some additional hardware. In our case, I bought a high end TP-Link router ($250) that I plugged the Starlink box into. The TP-Link has multiple antennas and a very strong signal that works inside and outside the house. The one box eliminated the need for additional mesh extender boxes. Contemplating that we would be using Starlink when we built our house I put a cable chase and power into a pantry cabinet that’s in the center of the house which maximizes coverage in all corners and two floors.
Our Internet life
Just as we do in our downtown condo we rely on a fast internet connection for making/receiving telephone calls over wifi (important for owners on the east side of the ridge where there isn’t cell coverage). Then there’s all the standard use of Internet surfing, and music and TV streaming. We’re an Apple family so it made lots of sense to buy AppleTV boxes for each set. Roku players work well too and cost less than the ATV. However, most new TVs have wifi built into them so you can access various streaming services right from the TV. The smart TV option is good if you want to keep your budget down, but you get what you pay for and at the top end of the pile, the AppleTV is the best box on the market (especially if you have other devices like an Apple Watch, iPhone or iPad).
We subscribe to a lot of streaming services. The centerpiece is YouTube TV which acts just like a cable box (with an impressive virtual DVR feature) that gives us all the Denver channels, sports and news. Added to that we have HBO Max, Hulu, Paramount+, AppleTV+, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Our media content bill is about $150 a month. And here’s the really awesome thing: instead of separate city and Fairplay services, we only need one subscription to all these services. We can pause a show in Denver and then pick right up in Fairplay.
The Smart House
When we lived in the Vail Valley I was in some super high end homes where the owners spent tens of thousands on home automation with miles of wires and fancy racks in electronic cabinets. Glad I waited a decade or two. We spent around $2,500 for a lot of automation controls But for even a few hundred dollars, and a dependable Internet connection, you can automate lights and a thermostat. Our home has smart switches for lights, control of heating zones, water heater, door locks, shades, and video cameras. Even the smoker is hooked up to wifi! All of these can be controlled while we’re here by voice, watch, or iPad. And all can be monitored and controlled when we’re back in the city. No more wondering, “did I close the garage door?” Having a dependable connection via Starlink really raises your peace of mind about your property when you’re gone. One of our cameras looks out up Colorado 9 toward Fairplay so I can get a very personalized real time view of weather and road conditions.
Starlink works as advertised
I breathed a big sigh of relief the first week we fired up our Starlink. I left music streaming on all day just to see if it would drop out - it didn’t. Now with five months of using Starlink daily I’m a fan. There are no compromises in living our digital life here in the mountains as we do in the city. It’s a real game changer for our family - especially for our son and daughter-in-law who both can work remotely from anywhere.
Yet, as solid as our Starlink performance is, I still think that wiring Redhill Forest with a terrestrial option would be a good community strategy. That’s expensive and will take time. In the meantime, go Starlink, go.