SpaceX Says FCC Was Unfair for Rejecting Its Internet Bid

SpaceX requested a review after the Federal Communications Commission rejected its offer of $855.5 million in rural broadband funding, saying the decision left rural Americans “indefinitely stranded on the wrong side of the digital divide.”

SpaceX was originally intended to be funded through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), a fund set up under the Trump administration aimed at connecting rural Americans to high-speed, quality internet in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Former FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai awarded SpaceX an RDOF grant in December 2020, but the company still needed the FCC to approve a long-form application to receive the funds.

SpaceX suggested the money it received would bring its Starlink satellite internet system to nearly 650,000 homes and businesses in 35 states. But in August, the FCC, now under the Biden administration, refused.

“As we move into a digital future that demands increasingly powerful and faster networks, we must make the most of scarce universal service dollars,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, FCC Chairwoman. “The question before us was whether we should publicly subsidize it [SpaceX’s] We’re still developing technologies for consumer broadband — which require users to purchase a $600 dish — with nearly $900 million in universal service funds by 2032.”

In a filing filed Friday, SpaceX Senior Director David Goldman filed a request for review, saying the filing shows “a clear bias toward fiber, rather than a performance-based decision to actually connect unserviced Americans,” and claimed the denial had “data abused off the internet”. Record to punish SpaceX for its current speeds, rather than fairly assessing whether the company can meet RDOF speed requirements three years from now.

The filing alleged that the FCC changed the rules on funding requirements “to reverse a previous policy” and was “grossly unfair” to the company after it “invested thousands of hours of work and millions of dollars to… to prepare to fulfill its RDOF obligations had reason to believe that the Bureau would apply the Commission’s rules impartially.”

In a statement released Monday, FCC Commissioner and President Donald Trump-appointed Nathan Simington said he welcomed SpaceX’s appointment.

“I’m concerned that a confluence of factors both inside and outside the FCC, including this decision, our lengthy review of SpaceX’s request to launch more satellites… all combine to result in millions of Americans across the country for… Staying disconnected and locked out of our digital economy for years, come on,” he said.

*Initial publication: September 12, 2022 at 4:37 pm CDT

Jacob Seitz

Jacob Seitz is a freelance journalist originally from Columbus, Ohio, interested in the intersection of culture and politics.

Jacob Seitz

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