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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab). Lynk already demonstrated satellite-to-phone service in a test last year, according to Via Satellite. (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab).

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

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, 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 (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. 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