The FCC informs SpaceX that parking lots and airports are not eligible for rural broadband subsidies

Listen to this Article Now

The Federal Communications Commission informed SpaceX and other companies on Monday that the billions of dollars in rural broadband subsidies it distributed last year cannot be utilized in locations that are already connected, such as “parking lots and well-served urban areas,” citing objections.

In a bid to “clean up” its subsidy auction programme, the commission provided the companies the opportunity to withdraw their financing requests from areas that already have service.

In a letter addressed to SpaceX’s finance director David Finlay, Michael Janson, director of the FCC’s Rural Broadband Task Force, said that the companies that received the subsidies must complete the work to assess their eligibility for the funds.

Legal documents were issued to other recipients of the commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, a $9.2 billion auction to boost broadband to rural communities that require or do not have service, according to Bloomberg. SpaceX’s satellite internet network Starlink received $886 million as part of the RDOF programme last December, with 196 other companies also receiving a share of the $9.2 billion.

Following the awards, research from organizations such as the Competitive Carriers Association, an advocacy group, exposed numerous errors and waste in the FCC’s approach.

According to a May CCA analysis, “pervasive inaccuracies in broadband statistics will soon send large sums of money in Federal broadband subsidies to parts of the province least in need of support.”

Over $700 million in RDOF funding were spent to install broadband to communities that already had it, according to a media policy organization, which called the rural internet initiative “riddled with errors, waste, and poor control.” According to the report, $111 million of SpaceX’s $886 million shares went to well-served urban areas and random bits of land with no infrastructure, ranging from thin highway medians and vacant patches of grass to carparks and big-box retailers in New York City.

The RDOF subsidies were announced by former FCC chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican who stepped down when Vice President Biden took office. Following the distribution of the letters to RDOF companies on Monday, Free Press attacked Pai’s leadership of the RDOF programme while praising Rosenworcel’s oversight.

Story By: Norvisi Mawunyegah