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Carr, Simington Dissent

FCC Takes Fire for Denying SpaceX Participation in RDOF

The Republican minority FCC commissioners and White House critics took aim of the agency's order Tuesday upholding the Wireless Bureau decision rejecting SpaceX's application for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) (see 2208100050).

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The decision was "regulatory harassment of Elon Musk," SpaceX's founder and principal owner, Commissioner Brendan Carr posted on Musk's X. He made much the same argument in his dissent. Commissioner Nathan Simington said in his dissent he "was disappointed by this wrongheaded decision when it was first announced, but the majority today lays bare just how thoroughly and lawlessly arbitrary it was. If this is what passes for due process and the rule of law at the FCC, then this agency ought not to be trusted with the adjudicatory powers Congress has granted it and the deference that the courts have given it."

"It’s disappointing to see the FCC used this way," Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., posted on X. "Starlink is currently the most cost efficient means of providing high speed internet to the unserved rural areas of Kentucky, and there’s no close second," he said. Foundations for Freedom Online Executive Director Mike Benz posted it was an example of "how the Biden executive branch is targeting Elon Musk properties from every angle, this time the FCC revoking a nearly billion dollar grant from 2020 to Starlink creating a brand new impossible standard that only applies to Starlink." Asked about the critiques, the FCC didn't comment.

In its order, the agency said the Wireless Bureau sent SpaceX "multiple, detailed inquires laying out its specific questions and concerns [about the adequacy of Starlink coverage] which Starlink did not adequately answer." SpaceX never pointed to examples of its technology today providing service at the required level, and evaluating the company's claim it would meet that requirement by 2025 required the bureau "to use the best available data to make a predictive judgment," it said.

Asked about the RDOF order after Wednesday's FCC meeting (see 2312130019), Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that while multiple technologies will be needed to close the digital divide, SpaceX's participation in RDOF "is a question of whether or not you met the program's requirements and if you don't meet the requirements, you are not going to be allocated those funds."