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FCC cancels Starlink’s $886 million grant from Ajit Pai’s mismanaged auction

Man's hand holding stack of US currency with some bills flying away.

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has rejected Starlink’s application to receive $885.51 million in broadband funding, essentially canceling a grant awarded by the FCC during then-Chairman Ajit Pai’s tenure.

Starlink was tentatively awarded the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) grant in December 2020. But the satellite provider still needed FCC approval of a long-form application to receive the money, which is intended for areas with little or no high-speed broadband access.

We wrote about potential problems with the SpaceX grant a week after the FCC’s reverse auction, in which ISPs bid on grants organized by census blocks. Consumer advocacy group Free Press accused Pai of “subsidiz[ing] broadband for the rich,” pointing out that Starlink was awarded money in urban areas including locations at or adjacent to major airports.

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