CNBCFCC denies SpaceX bid for nearly $1 billion in rural broadband subsidies for Starlink

August 10, 20220
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A Starlink satellite terminal, also known as a dish, setup in front of an RV.

SpaceX

The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday denied SpaceX’s bid for nearly $1 billion worth in subsidies to support rural broadband customers through the company’s Starlink satellite internet network.

SpaceX, which is controlled by Elon Musk, had been awarded $885.5 million in the FCC’s $9.2 billion auction in December 2020 under the regulator’s Rural Digital Opportunities Fund.

The FCC subsidies are designed to be an incentive for broadband providers to bring service to the “unserved” and hard-to-reach areas of the United States.

In a press release, the FCC said both Starlink and LTD Broadband – another company that initially was awarded $1.3 billion in subsidies under the program – “failed to demonstrate that the providers could deliver the promised service.”

“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,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.

Rosenworcel added that SpaceX’s technology has “real promise” but emphasized that Starlink is still “developing.”

SpaceX did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Starlink is the company’s plan to build an interconnected internet network with thousands of satellites, designed to deliver high-speed internet to anywhere on the planet. SpaceX has launched more than 2,700 Starlink satellites to orbit, and the service had more than 400,00 subscribers as of May. The company has raised capital steadily to fund development of both Starlink and its next-generation rocket Staarship, with $2 billion brought in just this year.

The FCC’s denial of Starlink from the RDOF program comes soon after a separate but crucial authorization for SpaceX to provide mobile Starlink internet service to boats, planes and trucks.

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