The Federal Communications Commission last week rejected SpaceX’s appeal to reinstate a $885 million grant to provide high-speed broadband in rural areas using Starlink satellites. Thus, the FCC confirmed its previous decision to reject Starlink’s application for a government subsidy under the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program. The private space company, headed by Elon Musk, was very angry with this decision.
The grant was initially approved for SpaceX in December 2020. This was the decision of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai from the Donald Trump administration. But in August 2022, the new FCC Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel from the Joe Biden administration rejected the $886 million application. SpaceX almost immediately appealed the decision, deeming it grossly unfair. Vice President of Legal Affairs Christopher Cardaci expressed his disappointment and said that the Commission’s decision undermined the RDOF’s goal of connecting Americans in rural areas to broadband.
Problems with the Internet in the United States
While the United States is a highly developed country, its rural regions still lack access to high-speed Internet. According to the FCC, in 2020, 22.3% of Americans in rural areas did not have access to broadband, compared to just 1.5% in urban areas. SpaceX tried to solve this problem with Starlink satellites in low earth orbit, but coverage and power limitations became an obstacle.
The FCC based their rejection on Starlink’s bandwidth limitations and inability to provide services at a given speed as the reason. The administration believes that SpaceX’s satellite Internet is not capable of providing low-latency services at a speed of at least 100 Mbps.
Internet providers in rural areas have done little to provide broadband. Without sufficient incentives for local providers, the situation in rural areas will not change.
The importance of Starlink for Ukraine
Meanwhile, during the Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Starlink remains the only service that provides a stable Internet connection in the affected and frontline regions, where access to the World Wide Web is vital.
At the same time, the satellite Internet provider’s management opposes the use of its service for military purposes. However, the US military continues to emphasize its importance for the functioning of Ukraine, which is actively defending itself against the aggressor country. That is why the Pentagon paid for the use of Starlink in the Ukrainian public sector.
Earlier, we reported how Elon Musk disappointed Starlink investors.
Based on the materials of techcrunch.com