ISPs backlash about Starlink project FCC funding

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More and more Internet Service Providers (ISP) are joining the group of entities that oppose the establishment of the Starlink satellite internet system. In particular, they are against the juicy subsidy of around 900 million dollars that the company will receive from the FCC. Supported by a recent study, two groups represented mainly by fiber and rural internet providers presented a report to the FCC yesterday. In it, they make alleged assumptions as to how Starlink will not be able to comply with the guidelines of the regulatory organization. In the document they also allege that the company will suffer a decrease in capacity by 2028 that will compromise the quality of its operations.

These ISP groups demand that the Federal Communications Commission evaluate up to what extend SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet project needs funding from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). The FCC had already confirmed to SpaceX the delivery of the funds. Both organizations had agreed to a program that would last 10 years, in which they will provide Internet to 642,925 households in 35 states. However, the deal will not be finalized until the FCC finishes studying the new report.

The real intention behind the report

The groups opposing SpaceX’s satellite internet project are largely made up of 850 small telecommunications companies, vendors and municipal internet service providers. The predictions included in the report cover a period of 7 years, which at first glance causes doubts and concern about the accuracy of its conclusions.

In the report, these groups also talk about the technology used by SpaceX satellites. They say that the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite technology is too new and has not been proven effective. In contrast, they support static installation and wiring technologies and urge the FCC to consider them for subsidy.

Being completely objective, the only thing these groups are after is the money. If the SpaceX deal does not consolidate, then the funds will have to be allocated to other providers. The commission’s program seeks to benefit Internet users in rural areas of the United States. In total, the agency has a budget of $ 9.2 billion dollars, to be delivered to 180 service entities, and thus benefit 5.2 million homes and businesses.

The basis of the allegations

In fact, the lack of communication has been Starlink’s enemy since the beginning. According to the FCC guidelines, in order to meet the service expectations, providers must comply with an internet of speeds of 100Mbps download and 20Mbps upload. SpaceX provided very little information about the actual performance of its services, and on several occasions it has changed its narrative. The information in the report is based on data that is publicly available.

Starlink satellites
Actual Starlink satellites

In the estimated figures in the report, it says that SpaceX will need a total of 12,000 satellites by 2028 if it wants to meet demand efficiently. In reality, Cartesian (the company in charge of the metrics for the report submitted to the FCC) had no reservations when making its estimates. In the report, details such as usage peaks, future demand growth and even the use of high-bandwidth technologies such as 4K streaming services were taken into consideration. After all the estimates, Cartesian concluded that between 25 and 30 percent of users would receive less than 10Mbps in periods of increased congestion. Figures well below what the FCC demands.

It is true that fiber optics offers the fastest and most reliable connection to the internet that exists. Even so, it is also true that not all rural areas have the infrastructure to offer these services. There are many areas where the terrain does not favor the installation of repeater antennas or towers for wiring.

SpaceX has not yet offered an official response to the delivery of the report to the FCC. However, faced with the accusations that the service was still experimental. The company said:

The Starlink beta already serving 10,000 users in the US and abroad demonstrates “technical maturity and inherent capacity to support high-throughput, low-latency broadband service to unserved or underserved communities in even the most remote and rural areas of the United States.

They added:

Starlink continues to improve as SpaceX deploys additional infrastructure and capability, averaging two Starlink launches per month, to add significant on-orbit capacity alongside activation of additional gateways to improve performance and expand service coverage areas across the country.

It is clear that the intention of these groups is to harm SpaceX and make them seem like a bad option towards which direct the funds to. Historically, it has also been seen on numerous occasions that companies that make up these groups fail to comply with the FCC guidelines and fail to meet delivery dates. Even so, despite their faults, in previous years they have received the subsidy. In the end, money is their real concern.

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