No Relaunch of Starlink Funding as FCC Denies RDOF Appeal

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In a decision similar to the recent LTD Broadband (LTD) denial, the FCC in a 3-2 decision has denied the Application for Review of SpaceX internet subsidiary Starlink appealing the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) rejection of Starlink’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) long-form application in August 2022. Starlink was the winning bidder for over $885 million in RDOF funding at Auction 904 in 2020. In its Starlink denial order, the FCC (1) reaffirmed its standard of review and rejected the argument that the Bureau applied heightened scrutiny based on prior skepticism of Starlink’s technology, (2) upheld the reasonableness of its finding that Starlink was unqualified to receive RDOF support based both on the company’s technical and financial capabilities, and (3) held that the Bureau had no obligation to address Starlink’s pending ETC waiver request. Commissioners Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington issued dissenting statements. The FCC has yet to issue a Notice of Apparent Liability or proposed forfeiture for Starlink, as it did very soon after denying LTD’s RDOF Application for Review. Though SpaceX has not stated whether it plans to appeal in court, it immediately filed a scathing letter in the FCC’s RDOF docket characterizing the denial as erroneous and arbitrary, and claiming Starlink to be “one of the best options—likely the best option—to accomplish the goals of RDOF.”

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