The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has awarded Starlink, a subsidiary of SpaceX, almost a billion dollars for bringing internet service to Americans that have no access or very few options for internet service through its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Viasat Inc, a satellite internet provider, has voiced concerns to the FCC that Starlink’s failure to provide that service to many users is not due to a semiconductor shortage as SpaceX claims. Viasat does not believe that Starlink can show how it will be able to offer the capacity required by the RDOF funding.
Viasat uses much larger satellites than Starlink, and has them in a much higher orbit, whereas Starlink’s satellites are smaller and in low-earth orbit, which is why it requires thousands of satellites in orbit to function. This isn’t the first time Viasat has made its concerns known over the RDOF funding, and it would be a surprise if it is the last.
The funds will not be delivered all at once but over 10 years and are meant to be used to bring internet service to 35 different States. Charter Communications received even more funding from RDOF to provide coverage to just 24 states.
When Viasat opposed the funding for Starlink the first time, it was also about Starlink’s ability to meet the requirements of RDOF. Viasat cited SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s comments on Twitter which indicated there were risks that Starlink might have some financial difficulties. Viasat claimed this made Starlink a “risky venture” and said Starlink should not be allowed to receive the funds.
This newer opposition continues along a similar line and highlights information found on Starlink’s website which claims that a semiconductor shortage is to blame for the failure to provide service to customers with pre-orders and that they will receive service when capacity is increased. Viasat says that it is Starlink’s underlying design limitations that are causing the delay and claims that Elon Musk is trying to use the limited availability of Starlink to increase the demand for it. There have been comments made by Elon Musk on twitter that customers needed to sign up quickly if they wanted to save a spot in line for the service. Viasat claims that their analysis and Elon Musk’s statements disqualify Starlink from receiving RDOF funds.
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