Carr: FCC Illegally Reneged on Starlink Infrastructure Funds

Brendan Carr
(Image credit: C-SPAN)

FCC commissioner Brendan Carr said that the FCC's recent decision to de-approve Starlink's $885 million in broadband subsidies was illegal.

Saying it did not think Elon Musk's Starlink satellite broadband service could deliver the goods, as it were, the FCC two weeks ago rejected its application for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) subsidies it won at auction in 2020.

In rescinding the funding, FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel said Starlink had "real promise," but giving it nearly $900 million in USF funds through 2032 for users to purchase a $600 dish" was not something the FCC was going to do.

Also: FCC Ready to Hand Out $1.2 Billion in RDOF Bucks

In a lengthy statement Wednesday (Aug. 24), Carr, who expressed immediate opposition to the decision, which was made at the staff level, which means without a vote by the commissioners, elaborated on his concerns, including that the FCC couldn't do what it did. 

"The 2020 Commission-level decision governing the Starlink award and similar ones did not authorize staff to deny a winning bid based on equipment price point considerations—let alone based on an arbitrary one selectively applied to one winner. As such, the denial here is without a lawful basis," he said.

In its RDOF auction, the FCC allocated $20 billion for 1) rural broadband buildouts ($16 billion) and 2) unserved areas ($4 billion) over the next 10 years.

Carriers bid on how economically they could deliver service that met FCC speed and build-out metrics. The money is for fixed voice and broadband service to unserved, high-cost, areas at speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps. ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.