FCC Ends $900 Million Starlink Subsidy

(LibertyInsider.org) – The FCC has reaffirmed an earlier decision to reject SpaceX’s application for a nearly $900 million subsidy aimed at expanding rural broadband in underserviced areas of the US. According to a December 12 statement, the commission lacks confidence in the company’s ability to meet program targets.

SpaceX, which owns the satellite internet company Starlink, was accessing the money via the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). However, this program requires applicants to adhere to strict quality guidelines. According to the FCC, SpaceX failed to meet the burden.

The Wireline Bureau handed down a similar judgment against SpaceX in August 2022. At the time, the FCC said it lacked confidence in Starlink’s ability to follow through on delivering reliable services at promised speeds. The commission also took issue with the vast nature of Starlink’s networks, determining that the investment would amount to a poor use of limited Universal Service Fund dollars.

In an email exchange that same month, an FCC spokesperson told TechCrunch that applicants to the RDOF had to prove their financial, legal, and technical ability to deliver services and “fulfill public service obligations.” While it later admitted that Starlink showed promise, it just wasn’t enough for them to feel confident to move forward with approval.

SpaceX took issue with the FCC’s rejection of Starlink almost immediately. It appealed the decision in an Application for Review first filed on September 09, 2022, calling it “grossly unfair” and legally flawed. The company also accused the FCC of misusing outside data and running unauthorized speed tests, suggesting that the resulting statistics skewed results.

The FCC’s most recent decision closes the door on that appeal. Now, SpaceX has once again replied in a new response filed December 12. The company said it was “disappointed and perplexed” by the FCC’s decision, arguing that Starlink was still the only viable option for meeting the goals of the RDOF. The company also vowed to keep working toward delivering reliable service to rural Americans, even without funding.

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