Commissioner Brendan Carr slammed the FCC for denying SpaceX $886 million in US subsidies to expand Starlink.
The FCC’s decision was “without a lawful basis,” Carr said in a statement.
It will leave families in rural areas on “the wrong side of the digital divide,” he said.
A commissioner from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) criticized the agency’s decision to deny SpaceX’s bid for $886 million in US subsides.
SpaceX, Elon Musk’s aerospace manufacturer, was looking for funding to expand its Starlink satellite internet to homes and businesses in remote areas in almost 650,000 places across 35 US states.
However, the FCC rejected SpaceX’s bid on August 10 because the company had “failed to demonstrate that the providers could deliver the promised service,” the agency said in a press release. LTD Broadband was also denied a subsidy.
Brendan Carr, a Republican commissioner, wrote in a statement posted on Twitter on Wednesday that FCC leadership reversed the decision on SpaceX’s application without getting authorization or a vote from the agency’s commissioners.
Carr said he was surprised to find out via an FCC press release that the agency had changed its mind on providing funding to Starlink.
“By reversing course, the FCC has just decided to vaporize that commitment and replace it with… nothing,” Carr said in the statement. “That’s a decision to leave families waiting on the wrong side of the digital divide when we have the technology to get their high-speed service today.”
As part of an FCC program to introduce high-speed internet to rural US locations, SpaceX in 2020 won tentative approval for $886 million in funding to deploy Starlink.
FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in the press release earlier this month, however, that it didn’t make sense to fund the “still-developing technology,” which costs $599 for the user terminal, nor afford to subsidize ventures which weren’t delivering the speeds they promised.
Carr said in his statement on Wednesday that data cited by the FCC showed Starlink speeds have increased year-over-year and, therefore, the agency’s arguments “do not bear out.” He also said the FCC has offered awards for slower internet service providers, which cost consumers a lot more.
“The denial here is without a lawful basis,” Carr said, adding that it “constitutes clear error and plainly exceeds agency authority.”
The FCC and SpaceX didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment made outside of US operating hours.
It follows the US Air Force awarding SpaceX a $1.92 million contract for Starlink to support US military bases in Europe and Africa.
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