Starlink Denied $885M Subsidy by FCC in Final Decision

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has delivered a final refusal regarding Starlink’s bid for an $885 million public fund aimed at expanding its orbital communication infrastructure to cover rural areas. The denial was based on the company’s failure to demonstrate its ability to deliver the pledged service.
This funding was part of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, designed to subsidize internet service deployment in areas considered unprofitable or remote by private companies. Initially earmarked for Starlink in 2020, the sum was contingent on the company’s proposal detailing connectivity provisions, costs, and target regions.
The FCC clarified that the initial application underwent cursory evaluation, subjecting qualifiers to further scrutiny. In the case of Starlink, while their satellite internet proposal held promise, it was deemed a technology still evolving. The requirement for users to purchase a $600 dish was also flagged, considering the target demographic’s financial constraints.
The FCC identified numerous financial and technical shortcomings in Starlink’s proposal, highlighting the company’s inability to fulfill the requirements to deploy a network of the necessary scope and scale across 35 states for over 600,000 locations.
Starlink contested the decision, claiming the application review was excessively rigorous. They argued about plans to enhance the network through additional satellite launches, referencing SpaceX’s Starship. However, the FCC noted that Starship hadn’t yet achieved a successful launch, casting doubt on Starlink’s assertions.
Two Republican FCC Commissioners dissented from this decision. One highlighted that while Starlink served many subscribers in underserved areas, other fund recipients failed to provide any service. Another accused the Biden administration of regulatory targeting against Elon Musk due to his outspoken views.
Despite faith in Starlink’s potential, the FCC chose caution, redirecting the funds to other applicants. While this denial didn’t entail direct financial loss for Starlink, it underlines their ongoing financial challenges despite recent revenue growth and reaching a breakeven cash flow.
Though Starlink’s profitability lags behind initial projections, its operational capabilities have been demonstrated domestically and in various applications.

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