Elon Musk’s Starlink takes the fight to Dish Network over broadband concerns

Elon Musk’s Starlink and Dish Network are currently butting heads at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the latter’s attempt to block an essential designation that SpaceX needs to get FCC broadband funding. Dish filed a petition against Starlink in late February, and a few days ago, SpaceX issued its response. 

The dispute between the two companies is related to a number of FCC proceedings, including a petition from Starlink seeking designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) under the Communications Act. This designation is required in some states where SpaceX won funding to deploy its satellite-based internet to 642,925 underserved homes and businesses in 35 states. Dish Network, for its part, has asked the FCC to deny the private space firm the needed status in the 12 GHz band. 

What’s interesting is that Dish is a satellite TV provider, which means that it is not even a direct competitor to SpaceX’s Starlink service. Dish is building a 5G mobile broadband network that could eventually use spectrum from the 12 GHz band that the company currently uses for its satellite TV services. Thus, Dish notes that if SpaceX also uses 12 GHz frequencies, Starlink could result in interference

“Dish does not object to ETC status for SpaceX based on its access to other frequency bands. But, to the extent that the requested ETC designation is based on the 12 GHz band, it should be denied or deferred, pending the resolution of the DBS interference concerns arising in that band from SpaceX’s proposed modification of its satellite system, and the sharing questions presented in the Commission’s recently initiated 12 GHz rulemaking,” Dish wrote. 

A prototype of SpaceX’s Starlink user terminal – the antenna customers will use to access the satellite internet network. (SpaceX)

SpaceX’s response to Dish’s request to the FCC was equally sharp, noting that the satellite TV provider’s opposition is without merit. The Elon Musk-led firm noted that Dish’s efforts would only result in delaying what really matters most for Starlink–providing high-speed internet access to those who need it the most.

“Dish’s Opposition ignores and conflicts with the Commission’s clear decision to permit applicants for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) Phase I auction to rely on spectrum in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band (“12 GHz band”) to meet their RDOF obligations. This facially spurious filing is only the latest example of DISH’s abuse of Commission resources in its misguided effort to expropriate the 12 GHz band. The Commission should reject Dish’s Opposition as a baseless attempt to obstruct the ETC and RDOF processes, the result of which would serve only to delay what matters most—connecting unserved Americans,” SpaceX noted. 

The private space enterprise also noted that Dish’s arguments reveal a goal to obstruct and hamstring a competitor, especially since the FCC had already decided to let ISPs utilize the 12 GHz band for subsidized broadband connections. “DISH’s argument now that its opposition to the modification somehow renders those Commission decisions meaningless is nonsensical,” SpaceX wrote.  

Read Dish’s FCC filing against Starlink below. 

(as Filed) DISH Opposition to SpaceX ETC Designation by Simon Alvarez on Scribd

SpaceX’s response to Dish’s FCC request could be accessed below. 

Reply to DISH Opposition to ETC (03!01!2021) by Simon Alvarez on Scribd

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Simon Alvarez: Simon is a reporter with a passion for electric cars and clean energy. Fascinated by the world envisioned by Elon Musk, he hopes to make it to Mars (at least as a tourist) someday.
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