Starlink bid for subsidies to provide internet to rural areas denied by FCC

Tim Reckmann from Hamm, Deutschland, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Elon Musk’s satellite internet service, Starlink, recently met a speed bump after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) denied SpaceX’s bid for almost $1 billion in subsidies on Wednesday. SpaceX was looking to secure subsidies for its efforts to provide high-speed satellite internet to rural areas in the United States.

SpaceX was awarded $855.5 million in the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunities Fund in December 2020. The FCC noted that the Elon Musk-led private space company had sought funding to provide satellite internet services to almost 650,000 locations across 35 states. The subsidies were introduced as an incentive for broadband providers to bring internet service to remote areas of the country.

As noted by the FCC in a press release, Starlink and another company that was looking to secure subsidies, LTD Broadband, had “failed to demonstrate that the providers could deliver the promised service.” “Funding these vast proposed networks would not be the best use of limited Universal Service Fund dollars to bring broadband to unserved areas across the United States, the Commission concluded,” the FCC noted.

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel explained the agency’s decision in a statement.

“After careful legal, technical, and policy review, we are rejecting these applications. Consumers deserve reliable and affordable high-speed broadband. We must put scarce universal service dollars to their best possible use as we move into a digital future that demands ever more powerful and faster networks. We cannot afford to subsidize ventures that are not delivering the promised speeds or are not likely to meet program requirements,” she said.

Rosenworcel highlighted, however, that Starlink’s technology shows a lot of promise. It’s just that in its current state, the technology is still being developed, and its costs to consumers are still fairly high. This could be quite a valid concern considering that a Starlink kit currently costs $599 and its internet service costs $110 per month.

“Starlink’s technology has real promise. But the question before us was whether to publicly subsidize its still developing technology for consumer broadband—which requires that users purchase a $600 dish—with nearly $900 million in universal service funds until 2032,” the FCC Chair added.

It should be noted, however, that Starlink’s deployment in Ukraine has shown that one satellite internet kit could serve users belonging to more than one household. As noted by officials in Ukraine, there were about 12,000 Starlink dishes that have been deployed in the country as of May. These 12,000 dishes serve about 150,000 daily users across Ukraine at the time.

The FCC’s press release can be viewed below.

DOC-386140A1 by Simon Alvarez on Scribd

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Starlink bid for subsidies to provide internet to rural areas denied by FCC
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