SpaceX hits FCC with $900m appeal
September 14, 2022
A month ago the FCC ruled that SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service was not entitled to receive some $900 million from its rural broadband subsidy scheme (RDOF).
Now SpaceX (and its Starlink Services subsidiary) is appealing that ruling which it claims is “flawed as a matter of law and policy”. The appeal document was filed on September 9th and takes the form of an ‘Application for Review of the Wireline Competition Bureau’ and its decision to reject SpaceX’s request for the subsidy.
The action claims the FCC’s decision “Fails legally because it contradicts the record—including SpaceX’s and Starlink’s proven capabilities – it contradicts the Commission’s stated rules for the program, and it rests on unsupported conjecture and outside-the-record information apparently cherry-picked from somewhere on the Internet.”
It continues: “Worse, it fails the RDOF’s very purpose: closing the digital divide. As the last few years have highlighted, it is critical to connect all Americans as quickly as possible, whether to enable kids to do their homework, empower parents to work from home, help doctors provide telehealth services, or assist first responders with emergency situations. The Bureau’s decision undermines this goal, leaving the very Americans that RDOF was supposed to connect stranded indefinitely on the wrong side of the digital divide. 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 programme.”
The SpaceX action argues that the FCC has “ignored robust record evidence of SpaceX’s proven ability to quickly expand and upgrade its network. On August 10, 2022—the day the Bureau issued its decision—SpaceX launched its 21st Starlink mission—and 35th Falcon 9 mission—of the year. Since then, SpaceX has completed its 26th Starlink mission and 40th overall successful launch of 2022. This world-leading launch cadence gives SpaceX an unmatched ability to deploy its satellites and has enabled SpaceX to launch over 3,000 satellites to date. SpaceX’s satellites have also operated with over 99 per cent reliability since being licensed by the FCC in 2018, far surpassing the deployment and reliability requirements in its FCC license and demonstrating it will readily exceed all RDOF deployment requirements.”