Top RDOF Winners LTD Broadband and Starlink Denied Funding

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The FCC has denied the long-form applications of LTD Broadband LLC (LTD) and SpaceX-owned Starlink (Starlink) for Rural Broadband Digital Fund (RDOF) support after concluding that “LTD and Starlink are not reasonably capable of complying with the Commission’s requirements.” After the RDOF Auction 904 was completed in late 2020, LTD emerged as the auction’s biggest winner, winning over $1.3 billion to deploy gigabit fiber to 475K locations in 11 states while Starlink won over $885 million to deploy 100/20 Mbps service to over 642K locations in 35 states. Both companies were the subject of great skepticism and criticism from rural broadband stakeholders who warned the FCC that the companies were likely to fall short of their RDOF obligations, essentially wasting billions in federal funding. Indeed, the FCC noted in a news release that LTD had already failed to obtain eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) status in several states and would not be capable of “deploying a network of the scope, scale, and size required by LTD’s extensive winning bids.” In the case of Starlink, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel noted that their technology “has real promise” but still balked at using public funds to subsidize the company’s “still developing technology.” The FCC noted that recent speed tests of Starlink’s network demonstrated declining speeds.

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