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SpaceX Appeals the FCC’s Decision to Strike Starlink RDOF Funding

By Rachel Jewett | September 12, 2022

A SpaceX Starlink user terminal. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX has submitted an appeal to the FCC for dropping its Starlink service from the first phase of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund subsidizing internet service in rural areas, claiming the decision shows bias against satellite technology. 

“This decision is so broken that it is hard not to see it as an improper attempt to undo the commission’s earlier decision, made under the previous administration, to permit satellite broadband service providers to participate in the RDOF program. It appears to have been rendered in service to a clear bias towards fiber, rather than a merits-based decision to actually connect unserved Americans,” SpaceX said in the executive summary.  

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced in August that Starlink would not receive previously announced funding for the RDOF and that Starlink “failed to demonstrate” that it could deliver the service that was promised.” 

SpaceX took issue that the FCC’s Wireline Bureau used outside data evaluating Starlink’s current speeds, when the speed requirements do not take effect for three years. The company also refuted concerns about the price of Starlink service and noted that SpaceX never said it would use current Starlink pricing in RDOF areas.

Overall, SpaceX said the commision held Starlink to standards not formally adopted and that “no bidder could meet today,” SpaceX claims. 

“Changing the rules to undo a prior policy is grossly unfair after SpaceX has invested thousands of employee-hours and millions of dollars preparing to meet its RDOF obligations on the reasonable assumption that the Bureau would apply the commission’s rules in an even-handed manner,” SpaceX said.

The FCC’s decision has even been criticized by Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr, who said the decision exceeds the agency’s authority and did not have legal basis.