FCC Postpones Decision Regarding SpaceX and Broadband Subsidies

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On Tuesday, The FCC postponed its decision regarding SpaceX's reliability for broadband subsidies.

On Tuesday, The Federal Communications Commission delayed its decision regarding SpaceX's eligibility to receive $16 billion in funding to expand broadband services in rural areas, according to the Wall Street Journal.

SpaceX has been lobbying the FCC to allow it to compete for the funding against other broadband providers with well-known tech. SpaceX plans to compete with these experienced providers through its Starlink system that uses low-Earth-orbiting satellites to offer broadband service.

The FCC will determine who will receive the subsidies over the next 10 years based on an auction this October. Companies will pitch their rural broadband servicing ideas to the FCC and the FCC will select the lowest bidders that meet its requirements. The auction rules are designed to select the fastest technology available in each area, specifically a "low-latency" network.

SpaceX believes its technology is "low-latency," but competitors disagree. On Tuesday, the FCC allowed low-Earth-orbit satellite companies to apply for the label. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said SpaceX’s application will be evaluated by FCC staff to determine eligibility. “The bottom line is of course we want to make sure that the participants in the auction, if successful, would in fact be able to deliver,” he said.

“Far from seeking any special treatment, SpaceX has asked only that it have the same opportunity to participate in the auction and be subject to the same auction procedures as all other potential bidders, consistent with their network capabilities,” SpaceX wrote in an April 10 letter to the FCC. However, Tuesday's result wasn't the definitive answer SpaceX was looking for. FCC Commissioners Geoffrey Starks and Michael O’Rielly both stated that they want the rules to be inclusive for low-Earth-orbiting satellites.

Mr. Starks criticized the auction rules stating they make “predictive judgments about the merits of short-form applications from low-Earth-orbit satellite operators.” Mr. O’Rielly stated, “I would have preferred a more technology-neutral approach.”

The FCC has approved the final rules but hasn't released details yet.

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