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SpaceX and Viasat fight over whether Starlink can meet FCC speed obligations

A Starlink satellite dish on the roof of a house.

Enlarge / A Starlink satellite dish. (credit: Starlink)

Over a year and a half after tentatively winning $886 million in broadband funding from the government’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), SpaceX is still trying to get paid by the Federal Communications Commission. One problem for Starlink—though not the only problem—is a series of objections from satellite company Viasat, which says Starlink lacks the capacity and speed to meet FCC obligations.

In a new FCC filing, SpaceX denounced Viasat’s “misguided campaign” against the Starlink funding. “Viasat is transparently attempting to have the Commission impede competition at all costs to protect its legacy technology,” SpaceX told the FCC. The new SpaceX filing was submitted on Friday and posted to the FCC’s website Monday, as pointed out by Light Reading.

But SpaceX might have struggled to get its funding even if Viasat never objected. Starlink was tentatively awarded $886 million in December 2020 by the FCC during the final weeks of Chairman Ajit Pai’s tenure. 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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