Market Watch

FCC Upholds Decision to Withhold Starlink Funding Amid Speed Concerns

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SpaceX’s Starlink project faced a setback this week as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 to maintain its decision to deny funding from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). The initial award in late 2020 aimed to extend broadband coverage to nearly 643,000 premises in 35 states.

FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, while acknowledging Starlink’s promising technology, cited concerns about its ongoing development and the need for established broadband solutions. She emphasized the financial burden on consumers, with Starlink customers required to invest $600 in a dish.

The decision was influenced by Ookla speed-test data revealing a slowdown in Starlink’s connection speed, particularly with upload speeds falling below 20 Mbps. The FCC expressed reservations about subsidizing ventures that overpromise but fail to deliver, emphasizing the importance of responsible allocation of public funds.

SpaceX vehemently disagreed with the FCC’s assessment, launching an appeal that ultimately fell short. SpaceX legal VP Christopher Cardaci criticized the decision, claiming arbitrary penalties and questioning the unique scrutiny applied to SpaceX.

Dissenting commissioner Brendan Carr highlighted the FCC’s inconsistency in holding Starlink to a self-imposed standard, suggesting motivations linked to Elon Musk’s political opinions. Another dissenting commissioner, Nathan Simington, emphasized Starlink’s substantial subscriber base compared to other RDOF recipients with no deployed services.

While the FCC expressed concerns about Starlink’s technology, it faces scrutiny for potentially favoring proven technologies over innovative solutions. Critics argue that SpaceX has a functioning network, unlike other bidders who have yet to roll out their promised networks. The FCC now faces the challenge of ensuring other RDOF recipients fulfill their commitments or risk facing similar criticisms.

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