Starlink, cell service providers deploy resources after Ian wipes out connections in Southwest Florida

More than 100 Starlink "dishy" units have been set up around Southwest Florida. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have deployed mobile cell sites and are working to restore service to the region.

After Hurricane Ian left a wide path of death and destruction in Southwest Florida, residents are preparing for weeks without power and many basic services, including cellphone and internet access.

On Saturday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state has worked with SpaceX founder Elon Musk to deploy Starlink internet dishes around areas most impacted by Ian. 

Hurricane Ian made landfall Wednesday in Southwest Florida as a catastrophic Category 4 storm with 150-mph winds. Ian's death toll continues to rise as search and rescue efforts continue.

Unlike cell towers and other internet providers, Starlink's signal comes from space through a constellation of thousands of satellites circling the Earth. The Starlink "dishy" can quickly be set up, allowing people to use the WiFi for their phones and to access the internet. 

According to Musk, the larger, flat high-performance units designed for boats also work on land and can continue to work even in hurricane-force winds.

"Rated for 280+ kph (174+ mph) winds," Musk tweeted after Ian.


More than 100 large Starlink units have been set up around Southwest Florida to provide internet to people impacted by Ian.

"We understand they're working on cell phone service. We understand they're working on getting the electrical back. We want it to be helpful as best we could," DeSantis said. "We're working with Elon Musk, and he's got the Starlink satellites. So he's been repositioning those to be over this part of Florida."

Other cell service providers are working on getting cell towers back up again.

Verizon said Sunday engineers are working with fuel vendors to power generators to keep cell sites up and running.

According to Verizon, fiber connections have been damaged throughout Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties.

"Teams of engineers are moving mobile satellite links into place to provide temporary connection to those towers to get them back on air," Verizon said in a statement. "Five satellite links have already been deployed."

However, many barrier islands, including Pine Island, Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Beach, are still inaccessible due to major infrastructure damage to bridges and roads. 

Verizon has deployed a tethered drone carrying a mobile cell site to a 5 to 7-mile radius around Sanibel Island and Pine Island.

T-Mobile engineers are continuing to move equipment and deploy satellite microwave solutions. T-Mobile's Community Support team has deployed to Estero, Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Sarasota to provide WiFi, charging and other services.

AT&T's representatives said Saturday that teams in Florida had restored more than 77% of impacted cell sites throughout the state.

At&T Satellite Cell on Light Trucks and air-based compact deployers have been deployed in DeSoto, Hardee and Lee Counties. For those without power, charging stations are available at Colonial Square in Fort Myers and the Naples Plaza AT&T store between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.