A Q&A with Parker Lathrop, Chief Deputy of Operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office
PCSO Vehicles will have added Starlink connectivity to improve community safety and enhance communication capabilities in responding to emergencies. The internet connectivity means faster response times, improved coordination, and enhanced situational awareness when responding in areas of Pitkin County with spotty service or no internet connectivity at all.
For those that aren't familiar, what is Starlink?
Lathrop: Starlink is a portable broadband satellite internet service. While fiber optic cables serve our county buildings, and services like Xfinity and Centurylink serve our homes and commercial spaces, we don't have reliable connectivity that exists on vehicles other than cell phone coverage. We don't get great service in the far reaches of the county, and are very limited with what we can do with cell phone connectivity and broadband. Anyone who drives up and down Highway 82 realizes we have some dead spots, and when you go off the main highway corridor up into the far reaches of the county, you lose your internet connection altogether. For a lot of the work we do, like being in touch with dispatch, we need reliable internet connectivity. Starlink allows us to do that kind of work wherever we are in the county.
When will this be installed in PCSO vehicles? Have you had a chance to test it out?
Lathrop: Yes, last spring we equipped one of our new vehicles with a Starlink system just as a proof of concept. We got that car in July and our team has been able to use it over the summer and this fall. Pretty much instantly we realized how valuable the system was. So we are growing the program from that one trial car into four additional vehicles next year.
Where will this be effective in the county?
Lathrop: With Starlink, we’re getting coverage throughout the entire county. As long as you're not in a parking garage or under a tree, we get coverage. This will be extremely beneficial in areas like Independence Pass and McClure Pass on Highway 133 where we have had to do rescues in the past. The benefit is immense – even while we are moving we have connectivity. Another huge benefit is we can set up a network on the spot for members of the public to connect, so they are able to call their families and tell them they are okay or take care of other needs.