back to article FCC really, truly won't give SpaceX nearly a billion bucks for Starlink rural broadband

The US Federal Communications Commission is continuing to reject SpaceX's $885 million bid to supply wireless broadband to rural areas via its Starlink internet satellites – much to the Musk-owned biz's annoyance. Under Ajit Pai, the erstwhile chairman of the FCC from 2017 to 2021, SpaceX was tentatively awarded $885.51 …

  1. Dimmer Silver badge

    It is only Rural if they say it is.

    My understanding is that ALL satellite based internet is not considered a broadband solution.

    To add context, if an ISP that wants to get funding to build into an area, that area must not be already serviced by a provider even when they can’t or don’t provide service.

    The “Serviced” designation must be contested. And it must be For EVERY single address if you want to apply for funds to build.

    So, most of the homes will never be able to get fast internet. They are not eligible.

    The commerce department knows this and decided to improve our chances.

    When you allow for space based internet. It could in theory exclude everyone. Removing them from the mix improves the chance that rural home might finally get internet.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: It is only Rural if they say it is.

      Starlink doesn't really fit the model RDOF is intended for. They are looking for companies to serve unserved areas that have been ignored, with the intent of funding the high cost of setting up the necessary infrastructure in a sparsely populated area that would otherwise not make economic sense to provide service in. That way people who live in those areas can benefit from affordable broadband. One person in a rural area getting Starlink doesn't make it any cheaper or more available for others the way running cable or fiber in a rural county does, they all still have to pay $1000 or whatever to get Starlink installed and it still costs over $100/month on the cheapest plan.

      The government would have to permanently subsidize Starlink service in those areas to accomplish the stated goal, and while Musk loves government handouts (so long as it is being put into his hands) this isn't a program that's got a recurring budget. It has a single pot of money approved and once its gone, its gone - but Starlink will still be priced higher than most customers in RDOF zones can afford, while cable or fiber internet, once installed, can be offered for the same price as people in town pay.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: It is only Rural if they say it is.

        The government would have to permanently subsidize Starlink service in those areas to accomplish the stated goal, and while Musk loves government handouts (so long as it is being put into his hands) this isn't a program that's got a recurring budget. It has a single pot of money approved and once its gone, its gone - but Starlink will still be priced higher than most customers in RDOF zones can afford, while cable or fiber internet, once installed, can be offered for the same price as people in town pay.

        This is one of the challenges with RDOF. Like you say, the objective is good, ie expand infrastructure, so fibre everywhere. That's a large and expensive civils job. But once done, there are still going to be ongoing costs. Challenge in rural areas are they may be more vulnerable to damage, so the costs to repair that infrastructure if it's been hit by trucks, road collapses, tree falls etc etc. Personally I'm a fan of making this sort of thing a regulated improvement plan. So the UK has a thing called the 'DMRB' or 'Design Manual for Roads and Bridges' specifying the official way to build those. The US could do the same maybe, and specify that every road project has to include say a quad duct and fibre access chambers. Would be a slow process as roads are resurfaced or worked on, but adding ducts is a relatively incremental cost compared to the major works.

        Sure, there'd be a few wrinkles to iron out, like access procedures, or what to do with private/unadopted roads, but theoretically manageable.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: It is only Rural if they say it is.

          That's why the electric co-op here spun out an ISP business, and ran fiber alongside its power lines to the whole county. For the most part, the Internet infrastructure is the electrical infrastructure here; damage to one is usually damage to the other, and can be fixed more or less in parallel. You still need to send two crews (electricians generally aren't fiber-optic repair techs too), but the site has already been identified and cleaned up by the first crew when the second arrives. If a house is on the grid, then there's already some arrangement for running the power line (easement, a drop and/or conduit, etc), which can generally be used for the fiber as well. Customers pay for installation, then they can either use the co-op's ISP service, or use a competitor's, and the co-op offers phone service as well, which is useful for people rural enough to not have good cellular service.

          It's true there are still a lot of households in the county which are so rural they're off-grid, and can't make use of it, but the fiber rollout made a huge difference to high-speed Internet connectivity. And there are wireless-service ISPs (using microwave, maybe? I haven't investigated, but I think they mention line-of-sight in their materials) piggybacking off it for some of those off-grid households.

      2. HereIAmJH

        Re: It is only Rural if they say it is.

        Everybody seems to have their own definition of what the RDOF is. From the first paragraph of the FCC's overview:

        The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is the Commission’s next step in bridging the digital divide to efficiently fund the deployment of broadband networks in rural America. Through a two-phase reverse auction mechanism, the FCC will direct up to $20.4 billion over ten years to finance up to gigabit speed broadband networks in unserved rural areas, connecting millions of American homes and businesses to digital opportunity.

        In simplest terms, what they have told the public is that it is to promote broadband internet to rural areas. Under those terms Starlink qualifies. In my opinion this program should consider funding Starlink. OTOH, maybe Starlink has changed the game and the program is no longer necessary, or a good investment of taxpayer money. I see no reason to give tax dollars (corporate welfare) to companies to do what they would do anyway.

        The USF (Universal Service Fund) worked in the past for getting telephone services to rural areas. Rural electrification did as well. I don't believe the projects to get Internet to rural areas has worked in the past though. And if the RDOF is managed in the same way I expect it to fail or under perform as well.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: It is only Rural if they say it is.

      It's not that it's not "rural" or not, or space-based or whatever... it's that Starlink is SLOW and doesn't meet the contract's internet speed requirements.

      The FCC doesn't care if Muskrat uses two tin cans and a wet string, as long as it's fast enough to qualify.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It is only Rural if they say it is.

        > it's that Starlink is SLOW

        “Starlink, which first launched on the African continent in Nigeria this past January, is showing intriguing early results. Speedtest Intelligence showed that Starlink in Nigeria had a faster median download speeds than all aggregate fixed broadband providers combined at 63.69 Mbps to 15.60 Mbps during Q2 2023.”

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: It is only Rural if they say it is.

          ..is showing intriguing early results.

          Probably nothing very intriguing about that at all, just normal for 'net. Pretty much every ISP starts off 'fast' as it's an empty network, then performance declines over time as more subscribers are added and congestion increases. Which is part of the FCC objection, ie if it'll be able to maintain up/download speeds over the US. Sure, space is big, but there's a limit to the number of satellites they can have in orbit over any given area at a time.

        2. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: It is only Rural if they say it is.

          I'm not sure why you're using Nigeria when speed data in various parts of the US, which is at issue, are available for a longer time. For example, you could use this article or the map it's referring to. One problem that might have is that as more users sign up, they will either have to send up more satellites or decrease speeds for everyone, probably both. As the linked article states, they're already having to do that in some parts of the country where there are more users. If subsidies are used to add more users to the service right now at the cost of decreasing the speeds for everyone and not necessarily having any long-term plans, then the FCC might prefer a different method.

        3. CountCadaver Silver badge

          Re: It is only Rural if they say it is.

          So slower than my parents recently replaced FTTC/VDSL service then.....

          15 to 63 megabits....wow....that's really pathetic tbh.....

          1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: It is only Rural if they say it is.

            IMHO, spend the "billion bucks" on subsidising a gigabit fiber infrastructure for everyone in the country.

            We did it for POTS, so now that that's being (rightfully) abandoned, let's replace it with fiber for all.

  2. lglethal Silver badge
    Facepalm

    And counting down to the next Xcretion from Elon rallying against the corrupt government not handing him money for whatever reason he feels he is worthy of...

    Then again, he's probably too busy shitposting on Xitter and driving away what few remaining advertisers there are there, to actually pay attention to one of his successful companies (probably much to that company's management's relief...).

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Meh

      Starlink is successful in that it works as advertised, but I don't think it will ever be a commercial success. The big problem is the short lifetime of the satellites before they need to be replaced.

      1. Oh Matron!

        and the fact that it's ***ing expensive.

        I bought the satellite dish for £400 a couple of years ago, used it a handful of times (I was planning on moving to a valley in italy with no connectivity of any kind), and then sold the dish a couple of weeks ago on ebay for £450!

        The service worked as expected, and stood in for the week I had no internets due to squirrels. But, your average Joe does not have £80 per month of internet. And that doesn't com bundled with any

        content.

        And the areas or potential growth for Starlink does not have the numbers to make this successful either

        1. xyz Silver badge

          I'm in the middle of nowhere Spain. To counteract squirrels and boar I sheath the Starlink cable in polypipe... 18 months on and no problems. And as for 80 quid a month, I pay 65€ so I presume you got Starlink "installed". Saw an ad the other day for Starlink Uk which had about the same prices which included "installation**".

          ** installation equals take dish out of box and put somewhere where there are no trees, connect router, switch on, get internet. No, there is no content 'cos Starlink is not TV.

          Back on the Musk vs FCC thing... On the one hand I'm very wary of govs wanting to control infrastructure things like broadband and on the other, if you want broadband (Starlink), just buy it off the Starlink website.

          Finally, remember that Starlink is not an ISP and when you connect to a ground station you get attached to any random ISP that's about, so that's probably where the FCC gets its panties in a bunch. But... it's a definition only public servants would get hung up on whereas everyone else would go "meh."

          1. Ali Dodd

            UK price is £75 pcm

            thats a flat rate no 'installation' direct from Starlink. Must be sold cheaper in Spain as more rural areas more competition + standard internet is much cheaper as gov has properly invested in it unlike UK where a few quid is shoved at BT who do a little and then wring their hands saying it's hard can we have more cash.

          2. John Robson Silver badge

            "Finally, remember that Starlink is not an ISP and when you connect to a ground station you get attached to any random ISP that's about, so that's probably where the FCC gets its panties in a bunch. But... it's a definition only public servants would get hung up on whereas everyone else would go "meh.""

            It's an ISP - it provides internet services, it's therefore an internet service provider.

            Yes, it has varied peering and connectivity points, but that's not unique to them as an ISP.

          3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "Back on the Musk vs FCC thing... On the one hand I'm very wary of govs wanting to control infrastructure things like broadband and on the other, if you want broadband (Starlink), just buy it off the Starlink website."

            The bit I find amusing is the way that some companies get all upset because a potential customer choose not to buy their product, for whatever reason. It seems to be an especially USA thing, although I have no doubt it happens elsewhere too. eg that "cloud" thing the US military was tendering for. They seem to forget that the "customer is king" and if they choose not to buy your product, then that;s it, suck it up. Believing your product is "best" or "most suited" is your own salesman fantasy. The customer will choose what they think is best, for whatever their criteria happen to be.

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              "The customer will choose what they think is best, for whatever their criteria happen to be."

              And when that criteria is based on brown envelopes supplied to a political party...

              1. ryokeken

                don't be a boomer

          4. MachDiamond Silver badge

            "Finally, remember that Starlink is not an ISP and when you connect to a ground station you get attached to any random ISP that's about,"

            What? Starlink is an ISP. What they aren't is a backbone provider. They also have to deploy ground stations that connect to the backbone to relay signals to/from their satellites and not just 'connect' to any random ISP since those other ISP's don't have satellite ground stations.

        2. John Robson Silver badge

          Well at the point where the alternative is no service then the £75/mo doesn't look too bad, neither does the ~£300 setup cost (there are quite often offers on, the current "normal" price is £450)

          It provides a good service where there isn't a terrestrial alternative - good enough that you could reasonably share said service amongst a small community.

          I don't think I've ever managed any value out of bundled "content", the internet *is* the content.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            "good enough that you could reasonably share said service amongst a small community."

            If all everybody is doing is checking the weather and sending a few emails. The first person that fires up Netflix is going to kill speed for everybody else.

        3. katrinab Silver badge
          Meh

          Yes I wouldn't use Starlink because it is too expensive compared to the alternatives.

          But on the other hand, the numbers on their accounts suggest that it is too cheap and they can't make a profit at that price point.

          Anyone who has a suitable ground-based alternative is going to use it. The number of people who live in remote areas who don't have a suitable alternative doesn't seem to be high enough to make it work from a business perspective.

          If you compare it to the other satellite providers, this is a superior service that uses more expensive equipment, and therefore I think it needs to be more expensive than the competition for the numbers to work. Would people be willing to pay that? I'm not sure.

          1. HereIAmJH

            rural customers

            The number of people who live in remote areas who don't have a suitable alternative doesn't seem to be high enough to make it work from a business perspective.

            Those numbers might be increasing though. Since Internet is becoming, in the consumers mind, a necessity, more people may consider moving to rural areas that currently don't have non-Starlink internet providers.

            Particularly with tiny home trends and improved off grid capabilities. I'd consider solar technology good enough that power grids aren't a necessity. Propane has long been an excellent replacement for natural gas. SpaceX covers the Internet. That just leaves potable water and cell phone service to cover my must have utilities.

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: rural customers

              Given starlink - why do you need mobile coverage as well?

              1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                Re: rural customers

                Possibly to communicate with people and organizations who insist on using SMS? Most of my cellphone use is SMS. I have a couple of OTT messaging apps installed: Signal, which no one has ever used to contact me; and WhatsApp, which I reluctantly installed to communicate with my building contractor while he was on vacation outside the country, and haven't touched since. Occasionally I get or make voice calls, or get the occasional MMS,1 but SMS beats all of that by a couple of orders of magnitude.

                That said, if OP had decent Internet at the hypothetical off-grid dwelling, a picocell might work for cellular service. We use a picocell supplied by AT&T here at the Mountain Fastness. I don't know if Starlink's latency is too high for one, though. (Some latency wouldn't matter for SMS, but can be annoying for voice calls.)

                1MMS is a PITA, so I avoid it. Because of the many MMS-related security vulnerabilities (due to crap implementations of multimedia libraries and so forth), I have MMS set to explicit download only, and I only download them if they're from people I know and I'm expecting them. Even then I don't like it. MMS was a terrible idea, like most ideas in the mobile space.

                1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  Re: rural customers

                  "I don't know if Starlink's latency is too high for one, though."

                  Elon's reason for stuffing LEO with 42,000 satellites is to keep latency low and that's about all it has as an advantage over other satellite internet suppliers.

              2. HereIAmJH

                Re: rural customers

                For now, telco regulations and culture. The same reason I wouldn't have home service through a cable provider. If I need my phone, I want to trust that it will be there.

                Making calls across Starlink will be like Skype when it comes to 911, you'll have to self identify your location. Telcos get nastygrams from regulators when their systems go down. With Musk's aversion to regulation, it's unlikely Starlink would become a real phone service provider. Example: local power goes out and Spectrum drops immediately. Wired service goes to a CO that has generators for virtually unlimited runtime. And cell towers have power backups as well. While I wouldn't expect power failures to be a problem with satellites, unless it's at their uplink, there are many other places where problems can happen. Until they have proven they have the teams to monitor and resolve problems with critical services, I'll continue to rely on other providers.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "The big problem is the short lifetime of the satellites before they need to be replaced."

        The terminals are expensive so SpaceX has to subsidize the purchase price paid by the customer. The system gets bogged down in areas with lots of subscribers so they have to limit the number of customers they sign up in each area which has lead to negative reviews. Somebody that gots theirs is very happy but when they tell a friend, that friend winds up on a waiting list which kills word of mouth advertising.

        The areas on the planet that don't have internet options where Starlink would be great are also mainly the areas where people don't earn enough money to pay for it. The thing in Africa that hit the news is most likely a lot of people using one terminal and SpaceX is charging less than half the US price for the gear and service. There has to be some sort of internet connection visible from the satellite as Starlink is just an ISP and their birds must have a ground station to relay signals. That might eliminate some places such as Saharan Africa where sats might not be able to "see" any ground stations.

  3. Grogan Silver badge

    After what "Space Karen" did in Ukraine ("personally", so he said, interfered with their communications so a drone operation failed) he, and Starlink, deserve hot lead. They were providing a service and sabotaged it. I wouldn't trust anything that comes out of Elon Musk's arsehole.

    1. ragnar

      SpaceX argued that they were being asked to *switch on* service in a new area, where the attack was going to take place. They didn't remove service.

      1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

        They argued that, yes. ISTR there was a matter of seaborne drones losing Starlink network connectivity at the point where they were approaching their target, so this argument does sound questionable. In the fog of war, it is hard to prove anything one way or another, of course, but it sure was convenient for the Russian navy.

        The argument remains untestable, so phrasing it as fact is a bit of a leap.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    So, Mrs Rosenworcel is cleaning up Pai's mess

    Heck of a job, but someone has to do it. I like that she's laying down the rules.

    Cardaci doesn't like it ? He can take a hike. Nobody owes SpaceX subsidies. Private companies take the risk, then reap the rewards. That's the rule. If you are continually begging for subsidies, you should be under government control and no longer a private company.

    There was good reason to subsidize the Falcon Heavy, NASA needed a solution now that the Shuttle was decommissioned. But subsidizing satellite broadband ? Nope. Not necessary. There are existing solutions that, additionally, do not depend on giant firecrackers that might go boom.

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: So, Mrs Rosenworcel is cleaning up Pai's mess

      "begging for subsidies" and trying to get a nose in the taxpayer-funded troughs are two different things and always have been. trying to get something when you have little is "begging", trying to get more when you have plenty is called capitalism - or "democracy" in the USA.

    2. stiine Silver badge

      Re: So, Mrs Rosenworcel is cleaning up Pai's mess

      So you're happy for Comcast and Charter splitting that fund down the middle? You're one hell of a masochist.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: So, Mrs Rosenworcel is cleaning up Pai's mess

        There are other ISPs.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: So, Mrs Rosenworcel is cleaning up Pai's mess

        "So you're happy for Comcast and Charter splitting that fund down the middle?"

        If Comcast and Charter can meet the requirements, they get the money. Starlink wasn't able to show they meet the requirements.

        Even as big of a purse as it appears to be, it might not be enough to make it viable to serve those rural areas. In the US there are two other satellite internet providers.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: So, Mrs Rosenworcel is cleaning up Pai's mess

      Have to like Cardaci's rhetorical efforts, though. "No, you're stupid!" (I may have paraphrased a bit.) Shocking that didn't succeed.

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: So, Mrs Rosenworcel is cleaning up Pai's mess

      "There was good reason to subsidize the Falcon Heavy, NASA needed a solution now that the Shuttle was decommissioned. "

      FH has only flown a handful of times and doesn't have much of a customer base to draw from. Satellites have been getting smaller and lighter with advancements in technology long before Shuttle was closed out for anything except ISS related missions. I don't think that NASA gave SX any money for FH, but the military might have. The military does sometimes want to loft very big and heavy payloads (non-nuclear). The one thing that hasn't gotten lighter is good optics.

  5. chuckufarley Silver badge

    The problem with the Last Mile...

    ...Is that once it's gone the telcos don't know what to replace it with.

    1. Xalran

      Re: The problem with the Last Mile...

      Well they know what's needed to replace the last copper mile... It's called fiber...

      The main problem is that it costs money to set it, and none of the operators wants to pay for it.

      That's why USA is lagging behind in fiber deployment compared to other countries like in Europe.

      In Europe in most countries there's a requirement that the operators needs to cover a specific percentage of the people and a specific percentage of the country in a given time.

      Sure it can't really be applicable at the USA level, but at each state level it is probably applicable... if the states can do it.

      1. PRR Silver badge

        Re: The problem with the Last Mile...

        > USA is lagging behind in fiber deployment .... In Europe ....needs to cover a specific percentage .... it can't really be applicable at the USA level, but at each state level it is probably applicable... if the states can do it.

        I just got fiber to the house (almost). Last 20 years here the ex-telephone company has been sold-off several times while ONE short street got fibered. Now suddenly the current incumbent is doing significant swaths of several towns. They are very eager to install that last jumper from meter-pole to house. I am sure it was triggered by this Federal (pork-barrel) Money that Elon is jonsing for.

        I do think low-orbit has potential in many places that city-dwellers never see, the vast fly-over of central USA (and outer Maine and Oregon, ntm most of Alaska). But he should not be paid for places already wired.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: The problem with the Last Mile...

          Here the fiber drops from the pole to the house, for both Mountain Fastness 1.0 and 2.0 (about 100 feet / 30m) would have cost me around $100 each, except they waive the fee if you sign a 2-year contract for the ISP service. And I'm in a semi-rural neighborhood here. Both homes sit on around an acre each (~0.4 hectare) and there are sheep on the other side of the back fence; it's not like this is a dense urban area.

          Anyone in the county who's on the grid can get fiber to their home under those terms.

          The service itself is around $60/month, which is moderately expensive — but a quarter of what we used to pay for Internet plus cable TV at the Stately Manor. Since I work from home and we use our Internet service more or less constantly, it's a very reasonable expense.

          1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: The problem with the Last Mile...

            My fiber from the pole to my house was free, as they yanked my copper line & were obliged to replace it. I kept,it active for another month then cancelled it. Switched to fiber internet (using that selfsame fiber) and went from $80 for 100 Mbits/s with Comcast, to $40/300Mbits/s with FIOS). They have recently upped their rate to $45 but I still conside fiber to be a much better deal.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: The problem with the Last Mile...

          "But he should not be paid for places already wired."

          The RDOF was/is a pork project to get broadband to the out of the way places that aren't wired/fibered up. Hughesnet and Viassat cover the whole US already with satellite internet although it's from GEO so it's not good for Fortnight or any other FPS where ping times are crucial.

          I think the other commenter that argues it's better to install the infrastructure than pay Mush is right. There is still the option of wireless internet. Put up a tower and subscribers get an antenna that points at it and a terminal box. There's an independent set up like that where I live if you know the person that operates it. We also have cable and fiber just got put in so we are spoiled for choice. It's a bodaciously small town too.

  6. Luiz Abdala
    FAIL

    Internet in Brazil was very expensive, until competition.

    First, nothing prevents Musk from launching his Satellites out of his own pocket.

    Second, everybody wants a monopoly on any given region and charge whatever they want... far more than Starlink base plan.

    I'm not saying Elon deserved the money, but people deserve better access, be it him or anybody else, just for the sake of driving prices down.

    That's why the USA is one of the last places on earth where 2 -10 mbps on ISDN or ADSL or what have you is something,.

    Brazil of all places, had a state monopoly where landlines were a fortune. On an open market, I am paying the equivalent of 20 USD for 500 mbps /down /month on fiber, but I am in a metropolitan area. On the boondocks, the prices are entirely another thing.

    This is an epic fail.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Internet in Brazil was very expensive, until competition.

      "I'm not saying Elon deserved the money, but people deserve better access, be it him or anybody else, just for the sake of driving prices down."

      If he just gets handed money to serve areas without competition, how does that drive prices down? He'd be pulling from an infinite money pot. Well not as currently designed, but once this one has been drained and the people concerned still have no affordable internet, they'd have to go find some more. Anyone in that area is already free to buy Starlink service at Musk's prices, so how does the government subsidizing that price improve things?

      Meanwhile, if they can actually succeed at making a real provider whose fixed costs have been covered, then that will drive prices down much better as that provider will be competition for Starlink, meaning that there will hopefully be some competition to lower prices and get customers in the area. No guarantees that it will be built correctly, but at least that one has a chance of working.

      1. blackcat Silver badge

        Re: Internet in Brazil was very expensive, until competition.

        Cox, AT&T etc. have no intention of ever passing on lower costs to customers. The prices my in-laws are paying for fixed line broadband and their mobile phones are about 6-7x what you'd expect to pay in the UK and they live in a large city. No-one in the UK would put up with over $100/mo for a sim only mobile service.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Internet in Brazil was very expensive, until competition.

          "No-one in the UK would put up with over $100/mo for a sim only mobile service."

          Do they have to? I see plenty of much cheaper mobile plans from US providers, including options from $10-$40 per month, with the higher levels including unlimited data though there's probably a catch to it somewhere. Also, we're not really talking about mobile service, but home internet. I don't expect that the FCC's rural proposals will be perfect, but they're intended to provide faster service where there is currently nothing, and if such a service could compete with Starlink, then customers would at least have a choice of two providers, and those providers might try to win customers from the other one in some way that would benefit them.

          1. PRR Silver badge

            Re: Internet in Brazil was very expensive, until competition.

            > ...cheaper mobile plans from US providers, ... $10-$40 per month, with the higher levels including unlimited data though there's probably a catch...

            Since Tracfone{*} got sold, my benchmark is Cricket. I pay $30 (no fees!) for limited data (5GB) which is more than I need. For the hungry, one BYO unlimited line is $60, but two is $45/ea, three for $33, and four for $25/ea. "Cricket may temporarily slow data speeds if network is busy." "Plans stream video in SD" BUT there's an online offer to pre-pay a year and get unlimited for $30/month

            My choices are limited by being well out in the woods, so I need a good network. Near town that is Verizon but my side of the hill AT&T(gah) is far better. Cricket is AT&T's bargain brand and I accept that I can be throttled so that AT&T customers paying twice the price get their bits first/faster.

            {*} While Trakfone was trying to get bought-out, I was getting deals like 2 years for $200, near 8 bucks a month, for all talk and slim data.

            1. blackcat Silver badge

              Re: Internet in Brazil was very expensive, until competition.

              For comparison I get 30GB a month, unlimited calls and texts with free roaming in Europe, Aus, NZ, USA and Canada (and some others) for £16/mo. So about $20ish.

              @doublelayer 4G and 5G is always an option for home internet if you are too far out in the sticks for wires but can get signal.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Internet in Brazil was very expensive, until competition.

            "but they're intended to provide faster service where there is currently nothing,"

            The issue is that there are very few places in the US where there is nothing and those are due to being in a valley where they can't see a sat in GEO. Starlink is just another option. I can think of some better ways they could have hoovered up a ton of internet business in rural areas using other technology.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Internet in Brazil was very expensive, until competition.

      "I am paying the equivalent of 20 USD for 500 mbps /down /month on fiber, but I am in a metropolitan area."

      Luxury!

      I'm paying $85/month for less. I was going to switch to fiber until the company demanded information that seemed a bit too personal and I declined. Whatever info the cable company has, they already have so I'm screwed there already. I don't want to equip yet another company with more PII than they need just in case I don't pay a $50 bill.

  7. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

    "Cardaci claimed the federal watchdog had unfairly penalized the space biz for not meeting the contract's internet speed requirements – by testing its broadband connectivity in regions the RDOF didn't cover."

    So did SpaceX actually tell them the regions they currently cover, was this a pilot scheme to test the feasibility of using SpaceX to cover these regions, or did SpaceX see the test results and then decide they didn't cover that region? There's a world of weaselling through the cracks if you don't know the answers to that lot.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Cardaci claimed the federal watchdog had unfairly penalized the space biz .. by testing its broadband connectivity in regions the RDOF didn't cover."

      “The RDOF Phase I Auction ended on Nov. 25, 2020 and awarded $9.2 billion in support to 180 winning bidders, including incumbent telephone companies, cable operators, electric cooperatives, satellite operators and fixed wireless providers”.

  8. aerogems Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Gotta Love Xitler's Lawyers

    "We know we don't meet the requirements, but we didn't think you'd actually check!"

    And, we always knew Pai was corrupt AF, but seems we are still learning just how corrupt. But on a serious note, how far could roughly a billion dollars go if you tied it to things like road construction? Every time a new major highway is built, or torn up to be repaved, you lay some fiber at the same time leaving connection nodes every so many miles. Same with streets in cities. If you have to rip up a road, you lay fiber down at the same time as you are laying the new road, and then you have one connection node per land parcel. If we started laying a fiber backbone along the existing Interstate highway system in this country, we'd be well on our way to providing cheap and fast Internet to everyone. The primary backbone goes along the interstate highways, then you repeat the pattern with other major highways in each state, followed by connecting it via city streets. The government owns the entire network, and all citizens are guaranteed access to it. Maybe they farm out the management of it to companies like Comcast and AT&T to try to avoid some of the inevitable lawsuits when suddenly these companies realize they won't be able to charge monopoly prices to a network that they've oversold access for. It'd also be a great way to repair some of the literally crumbling infrastructure in this country which was built back when rich people and large businesses actually paid taxes.

    1. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

      Re: Gotta Love Xitler's Lawyers

      Careful now with those dangerously sensible socialist notions you have there..

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. aerogems Silver badge

        Re: Gotta Love Xitler's Lawyers

        I wouldn't necessarily bury it under the road, maybe just dig a trench along the side, or something similar depending on the circumstances, where you can access the fiber cables if needed. Still, 90s era fiber would still be a huge upgrade to the copper phone lines a lot of rural places have now for Internet access.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Gotta Love Xitler's Lawyers

        " the 1990s fiber under the NJTurnpike may be not worthy of today's networks."

        If nobody knows it's there, it will be worthless, but that doesn't mean that it won't be good for something. It might make a great WAN for a city/county or large business with facilities spread out over an entire city. With all of the unused copper on the poles where I live, if a friend and I wanted to lash up a hardwired private network, I don't expect anybody would notice if we 'borrowed' a few pair of wires (no more POTS in town). We wouldn't get break-neck speeds, but maybe enough for some interesting projects.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Gotta Love Xitler's Lawyers

      " If we started laying a fiber backbone along the existing Interstate highway system in this country, we'd be well on our way to providing cheap and fast Internet to everyone."

      There's a tremendous amount of dark fiber in the US along Interstate highways. Global Crossing was putting it in all over until some clever engineers worked out how to shove more data down each fiber and the other lines thought to be needed became redundant. It's the last mile that's lacking. The town I live in no longer has POTS, but the copper lines are still up on the poles while crews are feeding fiber underground. They could put fiber on the poles in place of the copper while at the same time removing the copper as a way to speed up deployment and worry about moving lines underground until later.

  9. Vincent van Gopher
    Trollface

    Obligatory Starlink link

    https://youtu.be/Mq8KT9hR0DE?si=SLRFU59tuZbsqQR-&t=72

    A couple fs so depending - maybe NSFW

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Obligatory Starlink link

      "A couple fs so depending - maybe NSFW"

      That was good. The only issue is that 'Elon' is speaking way too coherently in the video compared to how he stutters in real life.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't want to be mean to lobbyists and PACS and lawyers but ....

    if you are going to offer subsidies for rural service why not just refund the rural users some part of their bill for whatever service provider they choose?

    Ah yes, presently nothing to choose from. But rural people tend to be close knit, so they can organize and figure out what is best, even form a company to negotiate with a provider.

    There's a huge difference in what would work for a tiny town of 1000 people and a 1000 peoples worth of ranches spread over 200 square miles of hilly terrain.

    Let them figure out themselves.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: I don't want to be mean to lobbyists and PACS and lawyers but ....

      "if you are going to offer subsidies for rural service why not just refund the rural users some part of their bill for whatever service provider they choose?"

      Because that will just make whatever provider of any quality that currently exists put up the prices, collect the subsidies, and provide nothing more than they already did. These subsidies are only there for building something better, meaning that companies that want them will have to make some improvement, or at least pretend to well enough to fool the regulator.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: I don't want to be mean to lobbyists and PACS and lawyers but ....

      "if you are going to offer subsidies for rural service why not just refund the rural users some part of their bill for whatever service provider they choose?"

      That sounds a bit like...socialism. <STONE THE COMMIE!!!!>

      :-)

  11. Marty McFly Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Meanwhile...

    For the past two decades Centurylink has tacked on a "Broadband improvement fee" to my monthly DSL bill. They haven't spent so much as a dime on improvement. My DSL connection still tops out at 6mb/s.

    Meanwhile the guy who lives next to the big phone box several miles away pulls down better than 25mb/s speeds. Under the FCC rules Centurylink gets to claim the entire region as having "broadband" if only one customer is able to get it.

    Next up is all the 'earth disruption permits' and requirements the government has. It isn't like 60 years ago where the Telco could go down the side of the road with a trencher and toss in some copper wire for phone lines. That is why replacing copper with fiber is so expensive and cost prohibitive in rural areas.

    Enter Starlink to fill the gap. Love it or hate it. But you cannot deny Starlink is providing a solution that surface-based Telcos and governments have failed to solve for decades.

    My preference is for government money to be returned to the taxpayers they took it from. But if that is not a possibility, then I say Starlink deserves it.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Meanwhile...

      That DSL is still being used by so many in this country (US), is an unmitigated embarrassment.

      If the government is going to spend my money, and they are, I would like them to spend it on a national fiber infrastructure, rather than Starlink, and I suspect you would too.

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