The FCC announced today that it will not award Elon Musk’s Starlink an $886 million Universal Service Fund grant to expand broadband service in rural areas. The money would come from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program, but the FCC writes that Starlink was unable to “demonstrate that it could deliver the service promised” and that giving the grant to Starlink would not be “the best”. best use of limited Universal Service Fund dollars.”
That was the same reason the FCC gave when it rejected Starlink’s bid last year, which led to this appeal. SpaceX had previously won the tender to deploy 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload “low-latency internet to 642,925 locations in 35 states,” funded by the RDOF.
“The FCC is charged with ensuring that consumers everywhere have access to high-speed broadband that is reliable and affordable,” said FCC Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel. “This applicant had failed to meet the burden of being entitled to nearly $900 million in universal service funds for nearly a decade.” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr disagreed, writing that “the FCC did not require – and has never required – any other award winner to complete his military service years in advance.”
Christopher Cardaci, chief legal officer at SpaceX, wrote in a letter to the FCC that “Starlink may be the only viable option to immediately connect many of the Americans who live and work in the rural and remote areas of the country where high-speed , Low latency internet has been unreliable, unaffordable, or completely unavailable, the very people RDOF was designed to connect.”