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Sky’s the limit in Kerry as billionaire Musk rolls out pilot project for global broadband system

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Influence: Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Photo:  Mike Blake/ Reuters

Influence: Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Photo:  Mike Blake/ Reuters

Influence: Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Photo:  Mike Blake/ Reuters

A remote part of Kerry is being used by the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, as a location for a pilot project in the roll-out of a new satellite broadband system.

Musk, founder of SpaceX and electric car-maker Tesla, is creating a network of thousands of ‘Starlink’ satellites to create a new global broadband system.

A pilot project involving the installation of antennae in the MacGillycuddy Reeks is due to begin in the coming weeks.

Strict non-disclosure agreements surround the approach by Musk’s representatives to Kerry County Council last December.

However, sources have confirmed that Starlink antennae will be located in the Black Valley, 20 miles from Killarney.

The valley was one of the last places in Ireland to get a telephone connection and is still reliant on patchy mobile phone connection.

A community broadband project unveiled at the local school last year had to be ringfenced for school purposes only.

The Starlink pilot link is likely to initially involve just a single household, it is understood.

Almost one third of all Kerry addresses have no access to high-speed broadband, a meeting of Kerry County Council was told last week.

Even areas close to the large towns have hit-and-miss connections, and many houses are paying for two or more internet and mobile signals.

It’s understood Musk’s corporation approached the Department of Rural and Community Development late last year before beginning negotiations with Kerry County Council.

It’s also understood that council officials are mindful that concerns about Musk’s new technology may be raised in Kerry.

Last year Cllr Norma Foley, now Education minister, led calls for “an independent review of all facts prior to 5G being permitted in Kerry”.

Ms Foley said she had been approached by people the length and breadth of Kerry and the key issue was “intensification” where thousands of tiny antennae would be in use.

At least one French village has already rejected the tech billionaire’s approaches. The council in the small village of Saint-Senier-de-Beuvron, with a population of 350, near Mont Saint-Michel said “non” to Musk amid what they said was a precaution amid lack of clarity about the new technology.

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