Space X Gets $886 Million From FCC To Put Very Small Dent In U.S. Broadband Gaps

from the baby-steps dept

For a country that likes to talk about "being number one" a lot, that's sure not reflected in the United States' broadband networks, or the broadband maps we use to determine which areas lack adequate broadband or competition (resulting in high prices and poor service). While the U.S. government doesn't genuinely know who has broadband and who doesn't (in part thanks to telecom lobbyists who have fought more accurate mapping to obfuscate monopolization) the best estimates we do have aren't pretty.

An estimated 42 million Americans (double FCC claims) still don't have any broadband whatsoever, despite 30 years of industry subsidization. Another 83 million Americans live under a broadband monopoly, usually Comcast. Tens of millions more Americans live under a duopoly where their only choice is again either Comcast, or some regional phone company that can't be bothered to upgrade its aging DSL lines because it's not profitable enough, quickly enough for Wall Street's liking.

Enter Space X's Starlink, which is promising to cover the night sky in a constellation of low orbit satellites capable of delivering fairly decent broadband, pretty much anywhere. Early beta impressions have been promising, delivering speeds upwards of 100 Mbps for $100 per month (plus a $500 up front hardware fee). It's very promising tech, if you ignore the night sky pollution the technology creates (which Musk promised wouldn't occur) that's hampering scientists and researchers.

It's promising enough that the FCC this week doled out $886 million in subsidies from the agency's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), to deliver broadband to 642,925 rural homes and businesses in 35 states. It's part of a total $9.2 billion in new funding being thrown at an industry that doesn't have a particularly good track record on actually spending this kind of money responsibly. It's not entirely clear why Musk's wealthy business empire needed the extra taxpayer help, or what Starlink exactly intends to do with the money (since it didn't want to tell the press):

"FCC funding can be used in different ways depending on the type of broadband service. Cable companies like Charter and other wireline providers generally use the money to expand their networks into new areas that don't already have broadband. But with Starlink, SpaceX could theoretically provide service to all of rural America once it has launched enough satellites, even without FCC funding.

One possibility is that SpaceX could use the FCC money to lower prices in the 642,925 funded locations, but the FCC announcement didn't say whether that's what SpaceX will do. We asked SpaceX and the FCC for more details and will update this article if we get any answers."

Consumer groups have looked at the Starlink bid more closely and have found that Musk's company exploited a very broken FCC bidding system to obtain money for projects in many urban, affluent areas that don't actually make a lot of sense for a fund designed to help shore up access to low-income and rural communities:

"By bidding for subsidies assigned to dense urban areas, Musk's firm and others were able to get potentially hundreds of millions in subsidies meant for people and businesses in rural areas that would never see broadband deployment without the government's help."

Again, a company run by one of the wealthiest men on the planet exploited a broken FCC system to get taxpayer/ratepayer money that could have gone to actual areas in need. Instead, the company got nearly a billion by promising to service a handful of properties near airports and luxury golf courses it never intended to target anyway. Kind of ironic for a guy who has recently been whining about moving to Texas for (at least in part) unfair taxation reasons.

To be clear, Starlink will be damn near revolutionary for Americans stuck without any service at all. It will also be a huge step up for users stuck on older, expensive, slow, and capped traditional satellite systems. But those expecting Starlink to be a nationwide game changer will likely be disappointed. The $600 first month cost is too steep for the countless Americans who don't have broadband because it's too heavily monopolized and therefore expensive. Musk himself has also made it clear the service simply won't have the capacity to offer service in parts of the U.S. with any significant population density.

In other words: it's not going to seriously challenge the real reason U.S. broadband is so insufferably mediocre and expensive: the regional monopolies enjoyed by telecom giants, and the ocean of folks they pay to keep it that way.

While an improvement over traditional satellite, Starlink also isn't a serious replacement for fiber. It's still not clear what kind of odd, post-net neutrality network management and throttling practices the company will engage in once its networks are fully loaded. If America could be bothered to actually do a serious audit of the state and federal subsidies given the telecom industry over the last 30 years, you'd find taxpayers likely already paid for fiber to every home in America several times over. Instead, those billions went toward a rotating selection of routinely half completed networks and a whole lot of fraud.

That's not to say subsidization doesn't have its role and very clear benefits in shoring up access when done right. But as we keep pointing out, more subsidies can't fix regulatory capture. They can't fix a Congress in bed with telecom lobbyists. They can't fix U.S. broadband policy that has, for twenty years now, basically been dictated by the biggest and most powerful sector monopolies. So while it's absolutely good that Starlink is taking steps to shore up access, those expecting a total sector revolution at the hands of Elon Musk probably shouldn't hold their breath.

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Filed Under: broadband, competition, fcc, rdof, rural digital opportunity fund, satellite
Companies: spacex, starlink


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  • icon
    Michael Gantz (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 6:58am

    Starlink is an awesome solution.

    Let me explain. The Comcast physical cable is across the road from me. Seems simple to just call them up and order Internet service. Well because of some odd flukes of the infrastructure: terrain, services not actually located in the easements, power equipment on wrong side of poles, etc, Comcast wants to charge me $20,000 plus to setup service. LOL, yeah right. I'm sorry but their product is no way worth that kind of cash.

    So when someone says "Hey, Starlink has high startup costs at $500!" I just laugh because $500 is a drop in the bucket. Heck, sign me up for two just in case one breaks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 7:30am

      Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

      Or.. you could have a competently regulated service where the tax dollars currently being funnelled into Starlink are instead used to provide access to your underserved area, and do so in a way that would allow others to use the same infrastructure (either other customers or other ISPs).

      Enjoy your scalping, I guess, I know which option I'd prefer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Michael Gantz (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 7:35am

        Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

        I'll be able to order and use Starlink sometime in the near future. If I wait for your solution I'll probably never get broadband.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 10:43pm

          Re: Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

          A shame, but it's evidence of how bad the US is at the compared to the rest of world. You're happy that a company taking millions in subsidies will charges you a premium of thousands to access their service, because the chance of the government providing you with help with the other service is unlikely. That's just sad.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 8:33am

        Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

        Paul, get outta here with that crazy talk. Here in the U$, we have these vicious creatures called ‘Lobbyists’, and our elected/selected officials absolutely LOVE them...even without lube.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 8:44am

        Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

        Paul is talking theory, Micheal is talking practice. Paul's solution will likely never happen. Michael's solution will be here in a few months to a year or so. Paul's solution will apply to some US locations. Michael's solution will actually apply to most people on Earth, local government willing. Paul's solution will require tax dollars forever, and many more than Michael's solution.

        Right now, in this economy and political environment, Paul seems to be whistling in the dark. If he were to argue that SpaceX is going to do it anyway and the tax subsidies should be scrapped for everyone, I'd be right there with him (not that I'd expect him to succeed), but arguing for a purely theoretical (in practice) and almost certainly more costly solution isn't going to get my vote.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Bluegrass Geek (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 11:54am

          Re: Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

          Michael's solution only helps Michael. He can afford the $600 for the equipment and service. That's not a solution to the problem of fixing rural broadband, just a solution for Michael.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 12:44pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

            It's a solution for a significant number of people (including at least some indigenous North Americans on reserves, not noted for their general wealth. Saying it's just a solution for Michael and meaning it literally is, bluntly, a lie.

            The only alternative being discussed at the moment is Paul's, which is more a fantasy than a solution, in that it simply isn't going to happen. By all means work for more honest regulation of telecoms, but don't propose that as a realistic solution for any current problem, because it isn't going to happen, not this year, not this decade, heck probably not this generation.

            Not saying that the current corruption is good or right, just that it is and it isn't going to go away any time soon.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 10:50pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

              "The only alternative being discussed at the moment is Paul's, which is more a fantasy than a solution"

              In the US, not anywhere else. Why are you so uniquely bad at this?

              But, you'd rather cheerlead for a system that forces people to pay $20k to get basic cable from across the street from Comcast's existing infrastructure, than accept that maybe the public would benefit from the government paying for that infrastructure, rather than just handing money to corporations trying to service some of the most connected areas in the country. Your choice, I suppose...

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Michael Gantz (profile), 16 Dec 2020 @ 7:39am

                Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

                "maybe the public would benefit from the government paying for that infrastructure"

                And where does government get the money to pay for all this? Oh wait, that's right, they get it from we the tax payers. So either way we're still stuck paying for it. And what happens when government starts paying for things? That right, the prices start going up even more: witness college tuition amounts in the presence of guaranteed government loans.

                Everybody wants to make their particular solution sound simple but they completely ignore second and third order effects.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Rocky, 16 Dec 2020 @ 7:53am

                  Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

                  You do understand that if the public benefits the government benefits?

                  It has been shown that rural areas that get broadband actually improve the local economy and creates jobs, which in the end means the government will get back the invested money with "interest" (increased taxes, less unemployment).

                  This has been proven again and again all over the world, but apparently the USA is so different because when it comes to obvious and proven solutions it just doesn't work there.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • icon
                    PaulT (profile), 16 Dec 2020 @ 8:03am

                    Re: Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

                    "You do understand that if the public benefits the government benefits?"

                    As I've been saying - in his scenario, Comcast's expenses might not be something that only affects Comcast. If there's some infrastructure investment that's required to get cable over there, maybe there's other utilities that can benefit. An effective regulated system might take on the infrastructure work to ensure that any utility that needs to cross that terrain might benefit. Maybe to include Michael's neighbours who can't afford to pay Starlink as well as himself.

                    But, no apparently it's only an option to pay $20k to one corporation who might do something for Michael alone, or pay $1k+ to benefit Michael alone, with no consideration to his neighbours or his other bills.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  PaulT (profile), 16 Dec 2020 @ 7:55am

                  Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

                  "And where does government get the money to pay for all this?"

                  Taxes. The same taxes that are currently misused to give ISPs billions to not return results.

                  " So either way we're still stuck paying for it."

                  Yes,. so why Americans demand to pay less in taxes but still get zero return, instead of demanding that the taxes they already pay do something other than go into billionaires' pockets is beyond me. I pay marginally more taxes than you do (depending on your state), but have a vibrant, competitive internet infrastructure and healthcare included in the same price.

                  "Everybody wants to make their particular solution sound simple but they completely ignore second and third order effects."

                  Nope, we just look at how everywhere else does things, instead of listening to the US insisting that the thing everyone else does is impossible.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 10:47pm

          Re: Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

          "Paul is talking theory, Micheal is talking practice."

          I'm talking practice outside the US. In the last couple of years, a private company with the help of government funding, has recently provided full fibre coverage to an inland town of a few hundred people about 20 miles from me, who previously had almost zero access to ADSL coverage, without a penny extra being paid in premiums to the residents of that town.

          "Paul's solution will require tax dollars forever"

          Bull. Shit.

          My solution is that instead of individual residents being expects to pay $20k for a connection from across the street, the government either pay this, or help doing some infrastructure changes that would not only make the connection easier, but open up cheaper access to other residents in that area.

          Unless AT&T in his story are expecting his to pay premiums after the cable was installed, there's no reason why the government would need to do this either.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        OGquaker, 15 Dec 2020 @ 7:44pm

        Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

        competently regulated service
        Oh yea, we be waiting for a responsive "Socialist" government's response to America's taxpayers needs, they just need a minute to pull up their pants. https://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2020/12/10/ukraine-united-states-dirtyness-together-government-bu siness/ideas/essay/

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 6:33pm

      Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

      The old, "fuck you, i can get mine eventually".

      I'm sure starlink is just fine for those who will be in service areas and can actually afford it. Subsidizing that isn't going to help anyone

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      OGquaker, 16 Dec 2020 @ 12:32am

      Starlink and worldwide access

      Lost in the mix; the DOD is supporting StarLink with $$s, thus the parking lot

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        OGquaker, 17 Dec 2020 @ 8:34pm

        Re: Starlink and worldwide access

        And; Starlink will give the US Airports a stand-alone IP link, invulnerable to physical, and perhaps black-hat hacking assault. Something TSA needs disparately to cover-their-ass.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 16 Dec 2020 @ 5:55am

      Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

      "Comcast wants to charge me $20,000 plus to setup service. LOL, yeah right. I'm sorry but their product is no way worth that kind of cash."

      "I just laugh because $500 is a drop in the bucket."

      I don't think you have a lot to laugh about, to be honest, if all you've got is "I got scalped, but they didn't pull my pants down and bend me over. I iz a winner in life!"

      From where I live - scandinavia - what you describe sounds like what I'd expect to hear from some guy in a 3rd world country excited that finally some local entrepreneur was gouging them whatever the market could bear for internet connection.

      This is not Starlink being acceptable, it's just Comcast enjoying their monopoly.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Michael Gantz (profile), 16 Dec 2020 @ 7:35am

        Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

        Let's look at the following numbers for size:

        Scandinavia: 463,000 sq/miles with 60 people per sq/mile

        Michigan: 97,900 sq/miles

        Midwest: 821,000 sq/miles

        Contiguous US: 3,199,884 sq/miles

        OK, now as an infrastructure supplier, figure out how to make this work! The variety in the US is overwhelming. In New York city you have a population density of 270,000 per sq/mile. Compare this to vast areas of the western US where you might have several people per sq/mile, if that.

        One simple solution of "run hard line to everybody" just isn't going to work. And then all that infrastructure has to be maintained.

        When people chime in and say "Hey, all you have to do is this...." they usually don't understand the enormity of the problem.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 16 Dec 2020 @ 7:51am

          Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

          Your point might be more impactful if it weren't on an article linked to one detailing how part of Starlink's funding came from a car part next to the Pentagon.

          https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20201210/07280945859/consumer-groups-say-fcc-just-blew-9 -billion-to-deliver-broadband-to-already-served-rich-people.shtml

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2020 @ 8:42am

            Re: Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

            Where Star Link builds it base stations is only loosely coupled to where it intends selling service, see my comment below. To build a base station in the middle of an unserved area would require running fibre into that area, negating the need for satellite service.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              OGquaker, 17 Dec 2020 @ 6:49pm

              Starlink is a partial solution, take a breather.

              Cell phone service was a godsend to Nations with wetlands and/or tundra, et.al., landlines or microwave distribution is expensive, but a single tower can serve hundreds of customers -especially when hand-held (The Brick) were 6.2watts, not 0.6. AT&Ts Mobile phone service had a dozen maximum duplex calls in 1970 within each 1,000 square miles, simultaneous calls doubled and tripled in that decade. The "Party line", multiple households connected to the same CO switch was very common in the 1960's, with a 30 pound electric motor generating dial & busy tones. What are you doing to contribute?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Rocky, 16 Dec 2020 @ 8:19am

          Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

          Nobody has said that running a fiber to everyone is feasible. Running a fiber to a majority of people though, that's not very difficult or horrendously expensive.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 16 Dec 2020 @ 8:36am

            Re: Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

            He's not even talking about fibre in his original comment, but cable. From the road across from him. Which, seems to be a major infrastructure problem if it costs that much to do so, and therefore a public infrastructure issue that might benefit everyone else on the other side of the road, probably for more infrastructure other than just Comcast. To be best fixed in a way other than paying individual ransoms for every property that can afford it.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Michael Gantz (profile), 16 Dec 2020 @ 10:19am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

              This work will benefit ZERO other people. Most of my neighbors already have Comcast, they got special pricing when the cable was initially installed. Most of this cost is related to cables/lines/poles not being in the actual easement, the power company having equipment located on the wrong side of the pole, and especially Comcast only wanting to do things the most expensive way possible.

              Comcast will only use directional boring to lay cable anymore. Which is very expensive around here, anywhere from $15 to $25 a foot. Some of the cable would lie in a right-a-way and needs boring to not disturb the surface. The majority of the cable on my actual property could be trenched at a much lower cost. Comcast doesn't want to do that.

              Somehow the power company not locating equipment correctly becomes my financial liability. ( So much for regulated industries. ) Also, the power company fixing this issue could take up to a year, if they're willing to do it at all. ( Again, so much for regulated industries. )

              If the Starlink system falls through and I can't get it or it won't work in my location I'm resigned to the following:

              1) I'll personally be laying the infrastructure on my property myself. I'll be trenching and laying conduit, providing "pads" for repeater equipment, etc.

              2) I'll contract a 3rd party myself to do some of the infrastructure work that's in the public easement/right-of-way.

              3) Once I've got everything to the point where Comcast just has to come out and physically pull a cable through some conduit then I'll call Comcast for the install.

              So, no, that $20,000 won't go to providing any other services to anybody.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                PaulT (profile), 16 Dec 2020 @ 11:09pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

                "Most of this cost is related to cables/lines/poles not being in the actual easement, the power company having equipment located on the wrong side of the pole, and especially Comcast only wanting to do things the most expensive way possible."

                That all sounds like something an effective regulator/ombudsman would get involved with where I live.

                "Somehow the power company not locating equipment correctly becomes my financial liability."

                Again something where government oversight should be involved. Surely, if it's their mistake it's on them to fix it, and you should have something in your corner to help get them to do that if they refuse? What happens with the next piece of infrastructure needed on the same route - are you expected to pay them separately again?

                I understand that your personal situation isn't getting this kind of help, it's just that from my point of view there should be a number of different options other than you personally paying for the fuck ups / profiteering efforts of a bunch of private companies. Simply having the government pay all that for you rather than handing free money to Starlink for things they're already doing would be a better use of taxpayer money, even if there's zero chance of the same infrastructure being needed for other people or other expansions in the future.

                It's already a mistake that you're being placed in a uniquely bad situation compared with your neighbours, but throwing money at different private companies to route around their original mistakes instead of having them correct the mistake for all future investment doesn't sound like an effective system.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 17 Dec 2020 @ 1:58am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

                "Most of my neighbors already have Comcast, they got special pricing when the cable was initially installed..."

                Yeah, and that STILL becomes a unique US problem.

                Let me put this in context for you; From the european perspective your arguments look like those made by a guy living in the middle of a mangrove swamp in 1920's Mississippi trying to describe why vehicular transport ain't a thing, and can't be a thing, in your end of the woods...and your neighbors only got lucky because some wealthy asshole ran a road right past their property some time back.

                Bluntly put it's the same sad story as when it comes to US infrastructure or general health care. Everyone else in the G20 has had a successful solution to this for decades but the US has wordwalls of arguments as to why they, specifically, can't.

                I get it. I hear you. Maybe to you what you describe is the one and only viable solution. That only begs the question of how the fuck it came to that being the case. Because you sure as shit aren't exactly alone in that situation.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 17 Dec 2020 @ 1:48am

          Re: Re: Starlink is an awesome solution.

          "OK, now as an infrastructure supplier, figure out how to make this work! The variety in the US is overwhelming. In New York city you have a population density of 270,000 per sq/mile. Compare this to vast areas of the western US where you might have several people per sq/mile, if that."

          You do know that sweden, with about 11 million people on an area the size of half of western europe has a lot more empty space between it's people that you guys do in the US?

          And yet we still have a thriving broabdband industry and it takes for a real isolationist not to have at least three providers to choose from.

          Seriously, dude, it's getting old, hearing americans screaming about what can't be done when the rest of the world has already managed to do it for a long time. Also pretty weird given that twenty years ago or some such you guys were the "can do" people.

          It's the same sorry story when it comes to healthcare or even just making sure everyone has access to uncontaminated water. You guys are sliding straight into third world classification while strenuously arguing that "We can't do what everyone else has already succeeded doing!".

          It's not that it can't be done. It's that for some reason you specifically, can't do it.
          I'd take that as encouragement to try to find out why not, and possibly start fixing it.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 7:30am

    This is the second article where you question why Starlink needs subsidies to do what it was doing anyway. The answer is clear, because if the government denied subsidies under the current laws they would be sued and lose. “They don’t need it” is not a relevant argument here. Complain about the subsidies in general sure or the definitions that result in parking lots getting subsidies service, but why continuously single out the player who is most likely to actually deliver what they are promising?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 8:02am

      Re:

      Reagan never did find any welfare queens.
      That is because he was looking in poor neighborhoods. Had he looked at corporations he would have found many welfare queens.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 9:21am

        Re: Re:

        Welfare, food stamps, and Medicaid are some of the very few programs we can say are based on "need". Other personal benefits are mostly based on income, whereas corporate benefits rarely have any such tests; if anything, they might be based on customer income without regard to corporate need.

        Film companies are notable welfare queens too, always claiming government benefits but still always "losing" money such that they don't need to pay their obligations.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Samuel Abram (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 9:25am

        Re: Re:

        Well, those were the kind of Welfare Queens Reagan liked, so…

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    spsattestation (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 7:47am

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 7:50am

    On the plus side...

    There are at least two isolated native communities that are benefiting from Starlink (the Hoh tribe in Washington state and the Pikangikum First Nation in northwest Ontario, Canada), and I've seen comments recorded from both saying the cost is well worth the service, even with the startup cost. Native reserves tend to be the poorest of the poor in both nations. $600 canadian is a lot of money, but Starlink is much better value than a 6 hour road trip (one way) likely with two nights that would in hotels/motels that would otherwise be reqruied for a medical consultation (or a court appearance).

    I am hoping that this money will be used to reduce the cost of the antennae that Starlink requires (or maybe even better, fully subsidize them for the most needy and deserving who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford the startup costs).

    Also remember that this was a reverse auction, so it is highly possible that SpaceX participation saved the tax payer money (by undercutting competitive bids) that would likely have been used to fail to build network extensions if the traditional companies had got their hands on it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 8:27am

    It's not entirely clear why Musk's wealthy business empire needed the extra taxpayer help, or what Starlink exactly intends to do with the money

    Starlink needs base stations that meet two requirements, visible to the satellites that serve their target areas and with available fibre for the backhaul. Such base stations can use better antenna arrays that customer stations, and so may be placed on the edge, or outside a targetted service area. I suspect that they need 100 plus base station to serve the contiguous states.

    Those base station can only be placed where the backhaul exists, or can be built out easily. If and when satellite to satellite relay is implemented, it becomes easier to place those base stations where the fibre infrastructure exists. In general those base station will be built near the edges of the areas that lack a good broadband infrastructure, but with the intent of serving them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Faber Schnidejoch, 15 Dec 2020 @ 10:21am

    I said this wouldn't happen. -- But subsidized over $1827 per!?

    That figger is using the highest POSSIBLE, NOT the current handful: 886,000,000 / 485,000 = 1,826.8

    From prior piece: "Starlink lobbies the FCC for up to $16 billion in subsidies"!!! -- That'd be $32,990 EACH subscriber!

    OKAY, I admit that my statement was premised in the 20th Century. Forgot that we no longer have a "capitalist" system.

    This must be why Techdirt believes that "public-private partnerships" are GOOD. It's direct tap into huge "income stream"! Federal subsidies of $1827 PER subscriber! -- It's beyond "socialism" to blatantly criminal so that even the minion hedges.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Faber Schnidejoch, 15 Dec 2020 @ 10:22am

    WHO IS THIS MUSK GUY? -- I know background is verboten here.

    SO WHERE THE HELL DOES ELON MUSK GET ENOUGH PULL FOR $886 MILLION? -- That's on top of at least 5 BILLION for electric cars AND whatever contracts on rockets!

    Musk's only known credential is that he had over $100 million to buy into Paypal early. He did not design or build Paypal, ONLY had money from his father, whom he stated is "the most evil person in the world". He clearly is no rocket scientist, because thinks it's easily possible to get a human to Mars. He isn't actually technical, just hires experts. Musk is not an entrepreneur, but more of a Federal Technical Director in the neo-fascist system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 1:05pm

      Re: WHO IS THIS MUSK GUY? -- I know background is verboten here.

      Well, I've seen some spiteful, hate-filled nonsense spewed around here, but usually only by right-wing trolls. This one takes the cake.

      Musk founded a software company called zip2, which he sold to Compaq for over $300 million, before his next company, X.com, merged with pay-pal. Last I checked, $300 million was more than $100 million, but hey, what do I know? I only have a math degree.

      Second, while he has said that he thinks the radiation problem on a trip to Mars is easily solved, and plenty of people disagree with him, what the hell does that have to do with rocket science? He founded a rocket company, put virtually all his money into it and nearly lost it all when the first three Falcon 1 launch attempts failed. And you know who SpaceX's chief engineer is? On Elon Musk. He is the person who chose the material for the Spaceship. He is the person who insisted on designing for reusability from the get-go for the Falcon line of rockets. He is the person who makes the final engineering decision. He is almost certainly the only person in SpaceX's history without whom it would not have succeeded (if it had even been formed, which it wouldn't have been). Writing off his contributions as "just hires experts" belittles his very real contributions in a really stupid way.

      As for his pull, SpaceX won the contracts because it demonstrated unequivocally that it could meet the requirements and underbid its competitors. He raised $5 billion at Tesla because people and institutions want to buy Tesla stock. He wins the rocket contracts because SpaceX does the job and does it cheaper (and possibly better) than anyone else. SpaceX has competition and they all cost more for the same launch. In other words, his "pull" is doing the work better than others.

      Not that he is anywhere near perfect. He has said some really stupid and/or obnoxious things on twitter. His timekeeping leaves a lot to be desired (as in some project overrun estimates by literally years). His reaction to the coronavirus was almost as bad as his orangeness. But is it came down to a choice between you and him for the last parachute in a crashing plane, I would hesitate giving it to him for even a fraction of a second.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Rocky, 15 Dec 2020 @ 2:07pm

        Re: Re: WHO IS THIS MUSK GUY? -- I know background is verboten h

        He has said some really stupid and/or obnoxious things on twitter.

        Everyone is an asshole to one degree or another on occasion, Musk is no exception. Then there are people like the troll you are replying to, to which being an asshole is their normal behavior.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 16 Dec 2020 @ 6:27am

        Re: Re: WHO IS THIS MUSK GUY? -- I know background is verboten h

        "Well, I've seen some spiteful, hate-filled nonsense spewed around here, but usually only by right-wing trolls. This one takes the cake."

        Yes, well, Baghdad Bob consistently manages to set new records in volume and quality of gibberish - even after ten years of trying. We have to give him that much. It's also fairly clear that he breaks the mold a bit - he's only partially a right-wing troll because a lot of his rhetoric and arguments seem to be very firmly rooted in bona fide classical communism.

        "Second, while he has said that he thinks the radiation problem on a trip to Mars is easily solved, and plenty of people disagree with him, what the hell does that have to do with rocket science?"

        Uh, a lot? Whether a rocket can be built to insulate a mars traveller from cosmic radiation is dictionary-definition rocket science. That said no one argues much whether it can be done. Worst case, fill the exterior shell of the vehicle with 15 feet of water. What is argued is whether it's practically or economically possible to build such a vehicle with current technology. The main argument between Musk and experts is how big the hammer needs to be. Baghdad Bob's argument is, of course, that Musk doesn't know enough to even start the debate...which is, as is usual for that longtime troll of TD's, hilariously off target.

        "And you know who SpaceX's chief engineer is?"

        In other words he is a rocket scientist. It's just a typical tell for the troll popularly known as "Baghdad Bob" to start out by screaming a claim across the board which, on casual investigation, turns out to instantly self-destruct as it implies the exact opposite of easily observable factual reality.

        "He wins the rocket contracts because SpaceX does the job and does it cheaper (and possibly better) than anyone else. SpaceX has competition and they all cost more for the same launch. In other words, his "pull" is doing the work better than others."

        Meaning that he is a dictionary-definition successful entrepreneur, which is the second time in three sentences Baghdad Bob managed to claim the exact opposite of factual reality.

        There's plenty of shit Musk does wrong but I think that by now everyone has come to expect that enough of his ideas are winners to keep making him a winner.

        The main contention when it comes to Starlink is, in my book, why on earth the US, of all places, keeps throwing tax money at private industry likely to earn its own place in the market rather than subsidize, say, core infrastructure.
        THAT might be a valid question, but it's pretty telling that the resident lunatic can't even come up with obvious and accurate topics to criticize as soon as the issue under discussion is someone from Big Tech.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rocky, 15 Dec 2020 @ 1:22pm

      Re: WHO IS THIS MUSK GUY? -- Uneducated troll is wondering

      SO WHERE THE HELL DOES ELON MUSK GET ENOUGH PULL FOR $886 MILLION? -- That's on top of at least 5 BILLION for electric cars AND whatever contracts on rockets!

      Seems you don't understand how the world works but it's very simple: He gets shit done.

      Musk's only known credential is that he had over $100 million to buy into Paypal early.

      No. He had $22 million from the sale of Zip2 which he founded, and he used $10 million of that to fund X.com which later merged with Confinity who had a service called PayPal.

      He did not design or build Paypal, ONLY had money from his father, whom he stated is "the most evil person in the world".

      No, he didn't get any money from his father - that's just the typical random garbage spawned on the internet by jealous knuckledraggers.

      He clearly is no rocket scientist, because thinks it's easily possible to get a human to Mars. He isn't actually technical, just hires experts.

      Well, in comparison to you he's actually eminently more qualified to have an opinion on space travel and the possibility to get a human to Mars, especially since he actually have an education (Bachelor degrees in physics and economics) and a proven track-record. He is also smart enough to know that you need to hire experts. The only notable things you done is to repeatedly lie, have a hate-boner for educated people, being banned from numerous forums and promote communism.

      Musk is not an entrepreneur, but more of a Federal Technical Director in the neo-fascist system.

      Well, facts speak for themselves - but you aren't interested in facts and I get why you don't like him, he's successful and have an education - which are things you really hate because it reminds you of your own inadequacy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 16 Dec 2020 @ 6:06am

      Re: WHO IS THIS MUSK GUY? -- I know background is verboten here.

      "He clearly is no rocket scientist..."

      For all my grievances with Musk he's still the guy managing to launch payloads into orbit at a far lower cost than NASA. Obviously he at least employs rocket scientists better than most to be found out there.

      "...because thinks it's easily possible to get a human to Mars."

      It is. The budget required by current engineering standards is what makes it implausible, not the theory. How said human would then survive on Mars is another issue entirely.

      "He isn't actually technical, just hires experts."

      So...like everyone else who owns and operates a technology business, then? What Musk does, apparently quite well, is that he listens to his hired experts rather than his marketing department as a result of which there's Tesla and SpaceX...and Starlink, hypes though it may be.

      "Musk is not an entrepreneur..."

      Ah, I see your problem, Baghdad Bob. You don't know what an entrepreneur is beyond a vague feeling that it's a positive title which couldn't possibly apply to the bogeyman of Big Tech.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 1:23pm

    They have already

    Estimated the Coverage of the sky with over 40,000? low earth sats.

    Dont think you will be able to get a SOLID line of sight for awhile.
    And I get 300mbps from my Hardline to cable, at $60.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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