FCC denies SpaceX $900 million in Starlink funding

rocket launching with clouds of smoke and amid launch towers
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches 54 Starlink internet satellites to orbit on Sept. 18, 2022. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has a beef with satellite funding.

In a rare media release, SpaceX said it will appeal a funding decision related to its Starlink broadband satellite constellation, which aims to send internet service to rural areas across the world.

The space launch services giant was recently rejected for nearly $900 million dollars in rural connectivity funding from the Wireline Competition Bureau (a branch of the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC). SpaceX characterized that decision as "grossly unfair" in its Sept. 9 appeal to the regulator, which is under review.

Related: SpaceX Starlink satellites to beam service straight to smartphones

Simultaneously, SpaceX competitor Lynk received FCC approval Sept. 16 for its satellite-to-phone connection network, now only lacking a mobile phone service partner to bring the service. The news comes as SpaceX, seeking that same market, already announced a forthcoming partnership with T-Mobile in August even though it wasn't approved by the FCC for that service yet.

SpaceX, funded by billionaire Elon Musk, seeks to serve rural areas through a network of satellites, while Lynk plans periodic access to space through an orbital cell tower. Lynk already demonstrated satellite-to-phone service in a test last year, according to Via Satellite. Although the service would be only itinerant, Lynk says it would be useful for rural emergency situations. 

While Lynk has approval to operate the service in theory, the next steps for making it operational will include a frequency check with its eventual mobile phone service partner to ensure that its operations do not interfere with other satellites in orbit, according to TechCrunch.

Another player in cell phone coverage from space is Apple, which announced last week that its iPhone 14 would have an SOS satellite service for emergencies through GlobalStar starting in November.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace