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Starlink still trying to get $886M in FCC funds awarded by Ajit Pai in 2020

A Starlink satellite dish on the roof of a house.
Enlarge / A Starlink satellite tv for pc dish.


Over a yr and a half after tentatively successful $886 million in broadband funding from the federal government’s Rural Digital Alternative Fund (RDOF), SpaceX continues to be making an attempt to receives a commission by the Federal Communications Fee. One of many issues for Starlink—although not the one drawback—is a collection of objections from satellite tv for pc firm Viasat, which says Starlink lacks the capability and velocity to fulfill FCC obligations.

In a brand new FCC submitting, SpaceX denounced Viasat’s “misguided marketing campaign” in opposition to the Starlink funding. “Viasat is transparently making an attempt to have the Fee impede competitors in any respect prices to guard its legacy expertise,” SpaceX instructed the FCC. The brand new SpaceX filing was submitted on Friday and posted to the FCC’s web site Monday, as identified by Light Reading.

However SpaceX might need struggled to get its funding even when Viasat by no means objected. Starlink was tentatively awarded $886 million in December 2020 by the FCC through the remaining weeks of Chairman Ajit Pai’s tenure. Client advocacy group Free Press accused Pai of “subsidiz[ing] broadband for the wealthy,” pointing out that Starlink was awarded cash in city areas together with areas at or adjoining to main airports.

Starlink service is not geographically restricted in the identical approach as wireline networks, however the RDOF and different applications require ISPs to bid on particular census blocks. Starlink received bids masking 642,925 houses and companies in 35 states.

Along with rural areas, SpaceX received “the fitting to serve a lot of very city areas that the FCC’s damaged system deemed eligible for awards,” Free Press mentioned. A design flaw within the FCC’s mapping system made it doable to bid on subsidies in census blocks that had been “surrounded on all sides by fiber.”

Pai’s FCC public sale mismanaged

That RDOF public sale was apparently mismanaged by Pai, as Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced in July 2021 that the company should “clear up points with this system’s design originating from its adoption in 2020.” The FCC cited “complaints that this system was poised to fund broadband to parking heaps and well-served city areas.”

Rosenworcel’s workplace despatched letters to dozens of winning bidders, suggesting that they voluntarily quit parts of their funding. SpaceX was one of many public sale’s greatest winners, and Rosenworcel’s FCC requested the corporate to surrender funding in about 6 p.c of the 113,900 census blocks the place SpaceX tentatively received FCC grants.

The FCC letters to SpaceX and different ISPs pointed to considerations “that sure areas included within the Rural Digital Alternative Fund public sale are already served by a number of service suppliers that provide 25/3Mbps broadband service or in any other case increase vital considerations about wasteful spending, equivalent to parking heaps and worldwide airports.”

SpaceX did not agree to surrender any funding and is outwardly nonetheless making an attempt to get the total quantity. Whereas the FCC evaluation of SpaceX’s funding is ongoing, the fee has periodically released RDOF money to various other ISPs over the previous yr. The FCC additionally lately proposed $4.3 million in fines in opposition to 73 ISPs for defaulting on their bids.

Pai’s public sale additionally awarded $1.32 billion to a Las Vegas firm known as LTD Broadband to serve 528,088 areas in 15 states. However LTD subsequently “missed submitting deadlines and did not safe regulatory approvals wanted to obtain the cash,” The Wall Road Journal wrote.

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