back to article Musk lashes out at Biden administration over rural broadband

Elon Musk has reacted angrily to the Biden administration pledging millions of dollars to bolster high-speed internet access. Last week, Biden's account on Musk's X platform announced that another $82 million would be invested to connect a further 16,000 homes and businesses to high-speed internet across North Carolina. Trump …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's go Brandon.

    Over $5000 per location is crazy. How many years will that take to recoup a return on investment? Are these locations connected to any other grids like water, or reliant on wells and septic tanks? In which case, Starlink would be the equivalent - "off grid" connectivity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let's go Brandon.

      >"Are these locations connected to any other grids"

      Or like an electrical grid?

    2. vincent himpe

      Re: Let's go Brandon.

      i happen to live in such an area. (Behind yosemite : Madera) The only grid is the electrical, strung from wooden poles (that get hit by cars and at least one a year there is an outage.) Own well, check. own septic, check. propane? have a tank. Cell phone ? spotty at best. The "denser" areas have comcast (tv and internet) and that is your only option. even ADSL is not available. you are lucky to get POTS. The only internet options are Hughes net (very expensive and 10mb/s if you are lucky. if it rains: adios internet) or the newer mobile internet over 5G ( that also raises lots of protest .. ooh 5G we're all getting irradiated and tracked) and that is also spotty (see cell phone coverage). It's all farmland and homes as spaced very far apart and in clusters of 2 to 10. So starlink would be perfect. Have one access terminal and share with neighbours. Starlink has the ability to do that. Thy have been doing it for the tribes. One terminal and a network switch. https://www.pcmag.com/news/native-american-tribe-gets-early-access-to-spacexs-starlink-and-says-its

      1. HereIAmJH

        Re: Let's go Brandon.

        So starlink would be perfect.

        Out of simple curiosity, why can't you get Starlink now, without a government subsidy?

        1. MikesInAK

          Re: Let's go Brandon.

          This is the Internet equivalent of lifeline. Need to be poor to take advantage of it.

          Everyone wins when the infrastructure is built.

          1. HereIAmJH

            Re: Let's go Brandon.

            This is the Internet equivalent of lifeline. Need to be poor to take advantage of it.

            A major difference between this and lifeline. Lifeline provides free or discounted services on an existing service. So it's paying a recurring cost for each individual lifeline participant. I would support the government paying the monthly service charge for qualifying low income citizens. Or giving Starlink equivalent tax breaks.

            This, OTOH, is giving millions of dollars of corporate welfare to very large companies to extend their service areas. Starlink is NOT extending it's service area, it will cover those areas regardless. Thus, no infrastructure will be built.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Let's go Brandon.

          The subsidy covers the cost of equipment, installation and telephone service.

          $600 to $1k might not seem a lot, but it's a blocker. That's why you have free phones with a 2 year contract

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Let's go Brandon.

        "i happen to live in such an area...."

        Exactly. So I guess my downvotes are because of my title, rather than my sentiment, lol :)

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Let's go Brandon.

          As someone who didn't downvote you, or upvote you, the title suggestion is a distinct possibility, as it's unrelated to the issue and people disagree with that sentiment too, but it's probably not the only reason. Another one is that there are some places that are truly disconnected from all grids, generate their own power, have no old copper phone cabling, etc. It is not most of these places. Most of them do have some infrastructure connected to a house, but good internet is not one of them.

          There are some locations that are so disconnected from everything around them that it really doesn't make sense to provide a cable to them, but most of the people they're talking about live in small rural communities that don't have good service, where there are already cables for power and where a local hub could connect many people relatively cheaply if the work of installing that hub is done. The existence of completely off-grid houses doesn't make them the majority. Nor are those the priority for this program, as the program is intended to lower prices for areas where the poorest live. Chances are that if you're using a bunch of solar panels to power your off-grid house, you've probably got more ability to pay for your own Starlink connection than most of the people who don't have broadband.

      3. Lucasjkr

        Re: Let's go Brandon.

        Does Elon, I mean Starlink not offer service to you? Not sure why his company needs $1300 from the Federal government to onboarded you with their services?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Let's go Brandon.

          Installation, equipment and telephone service ?

    3. hedgie

      Re: Let's go Brandon.

      Businesses are concerned about making profits, and that's one reason why I am distrustful at best of anyone saying someone should run governments like one. A government *should* be providing essential services to its people regardless of profitability.[1] When it comes to things like infrastructure, rural areas are nearly always money sinks, and on an ongoing basis. Currently in the US, they're already suffering higher per-capita violence, rates of drugs abuse, and crushing poverty from decades of neglect and hopelessness than cities.[3] Unless society decides to just cut them off entirely to die on their own, giving them the resources to potentially reverse this decline isn't going to be a money-maker.

      [1] They should do so in a cost-effective manner, as much as possible.[2] But if Starlink doesn't meet the minimum need, then the cost difference isn't the primary issue.

      [2] I have no inherent issue with contracting with the private sector where appropriate, although, that would require more auditing and imposing penalties (if necessary) than is currently done. ISPs in particular have taken public funds to build out to rural areas/small towns and then have not done the work they were getting paid to do.

      [3] Some of this decline is self-inflicted. Refusal to change and abandon practically 19th century attitudes are huge drivers for young people to leave and never return.

    4. abend0c4 Silver badge

      Re: Let's go Brandon.

      I'm rather confused about what these different figures are actually buying. $1,377 seems adjacent to the annual cost of a Starlink domestic subscription, and rather more than the cost of the terminal, so what would be being acquired? And while $5000 might get you the fibre/cable/whatever installed to remote locations, the cost of maintaining even a fibre network spread over long distances for a relatively small number of consumers would presumably be fairly high, so how would that affect the long term monthly cost even when the capital costs are sunk?

      And if the goal is to get broadband to remote areas at an affordable and sustainable cost, wouldn't that be something that might be better arranged by state or regional authorities, perhaps sharing the infrastructure for other purposes?

      The whole thing seems to have more than a whiff of the pork barrel, whoever gets the money in the end.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Let's go Brandon.

        the cost of maintaining even a fibre network spread over long distances for a relatively small number of consumers would presumably be fairly high

        True, but those costs are spread out across the whole customer base. I get phone and electric on a pole where I live, newer areas in town have underground service. The latter is cheaper to maintain, but those people aren't getting a discount on their service because of that.

        Usually rural broadband is delivered in one of two ways. One, some big established player like a cable TV incumbent adds them to their area, and they have a lot of customers to spread the very tiny added cost of maintaining that new more spread out network, or two, a rural electric cooperative (i.e. customer owned) provides the service - and in that case there is not really any extra cost to maintaining the fiber because they're already having to repair electrical outages in the same places if i.e. a tree falls over and snaps the lines. Many rural electric companies already provide fiber because enough customers agreed to commit to the service for X years they could make the numbers work in the long run. Several rural cooperatives around here did. In less affluent areas, or areas where customers are more spread out (like ranches instead of farms) that's not practical. That's where this rural broadband program steps in.

        1. stiine Silver badge

          Re: Let's go Brandon.

          You should ask Comcast (or your local power provider) how much it will cost to connect to a home that is 10 miles from the nearest service. FYI, they charge by the foot, and they charge a lot.

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            Re: Let's go Brandon.

            Yes and if you were paying attention to the subject of the article everyone is talking about in here, you'd know that's exactly what the rural broadband subsidies are supposed to address. Comcast can get money to run that extra 10 miles of cable to serve that handful of customers who are otherwise never going to be served because it would take 150 years for them to break even on that initial outlay.

      2. Lucasjkr

        Re: Let's go Brandon.

        If State or Regional authorities had gotten broadband out to all their citizens, then the Federal government wouldn't need to. They've had how long now?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Let's go Brandon.

        Equipment, installation and telephone service

    5. DS999 Silver badge

      People don't understand the goal of these subsidies

      The goal is to connect people in unserved areas to broadband networks, so they can pay the regular price going forward. They are unserved because of the high per subscriber cost of connecting them, which makes it economically infeasible to offer them service.

      This is similar to the rural electrification and telephone programs decades ago that paid for utilities to provide service to people on farms and other rural areas, where they might have to string miles of wire along poles to reach a dozen customers, then another quarter mile of wire to reach each house. That's why it costs $5000 per customer to wire them up. If they were doing the electrification or telephone programs today it would probably cost that much (more, actually, for electric due to the transformers and multiple wires required) per customer in the same area.

      Starlink doesn't deserve any money under the program because they don't have to do anything extra to provide service for an unserved area - they already offer service in those unserved areas! Basically Musk is pissed because despite his MAGA ways, he loves government handouts. Without those Tesla would have gone bankrupt and could have never afforded to start SpaceX or buy Twitter. The guy basically enjoys his current life because of the billions in goverment subsidies to support EVs he got but he's still greedy for more!

      Now theoretically Musk could argue that no one should get those subsidies, because Starlink can handle them all, but he can't argue that Starlink deserves a red cent.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: People don't understand the goal of these subsidies

        Starlink doesn't deserve any money under the program because they don't have to do anything extra to provide service for an unserved area - they already offer service in those unserved areas! Basically Musk is pissed because despite his MAGA ways, he loves government handouts.

        Exactly. The only subsidy should maybe subsidising connectivity, which might mean some kind of means testing and probably isn't something that should be administered by Starlink. Plus I think that already exists.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: People don't understand the goal of these subsidies

        Exactly. The way some people here are commenting, if society progressed by their standards, we wouldn't have near universal electric/telephone/water/sewage/gas/

      3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: People don't understand the goal of these subsidies

        The theoretical goal is to provide a service of an agreed quality - by whatever means. The practical effect has been to give free money to telecoms providers. The FCC made a mess of it when the republicans were in control. Republicans blocked appointed of a democrat choice for years and now democrats are not doing a spectacular job either.

        Starlink started by providing an intermittent service that would not qualify for subsidies. When more satellites were launched the service did meet the requirements. As more customers were added, performance dropped below standard in some areas. There are some words from an exceptionally unreliable source that speeds meet the threshold for subsidies in the areas subsidies were agreed to. Now we have words from the FCC that agreed future subsidies should be cancelled now because the FCC believes that Starlink will not be able meet the required performance in the future.

        I can understand cancelling and re-negotiating the subsidies because the original agreement was insane. I can understand stopping subsidies because requirements are not being met or fail to be met in future (not sure if this has ever happened before). Starlink was priced to include agreed subsidies. Now that the government is short of money excuses are being made not to pay them.

        The choices appear to be: break a bad agreement without real evidence of good or bad service quality. Give money to an arse hole who is probably providing a good service in some areas. Give more money to some other less blatant arse holes who will provide less (or judging by past performance keep the money and do bugger all).

        I am not convinced any of these options stands out as being better than the others,

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: People don't understand the goal of these subsidies

          No one is denying that previous iterations of this program have been poorly run in the past. The FCC had really bad maps for determining broadband eligibility (basically if one person in your census block had broadband available to them, you were deemed to have it as well) and didn't have any system for verifying that those who got the money actually delivered on what they were getting the money for. Hopefully it will be better this time around, but I'm sure it won't be perfect.

          It doesn't matter if Starlink provided gigabit symmetric service, they wouldn't qualify for the money under this bill because it is to set up infrastructure to deliver to unserved customers. Starlink covers everywhere in the US, so the only thing they could argue is "we have everyone covered so no one should get the money". They can't argue they deserve any of the money because there is no capital spending required for them to serve any customers that they can't currently serve. They may need to launch additional capacity to better serve customers but that's not something specific to unserved customers, that's for everyone. Just like Comcast can't apply for money to upgrade some of its existing customers to DOCSIS 4 (10 gigabit symmetric) via the claim that they will also add a few currently unserved customers as part of that work, Starlink can't pay for their launches that serve everyone on the logic it will improve service for unserved (i.e. too low of a speed today) customers. It has to be capital spending specific to serving currently unserved residential locations.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: People don't understand the goal of these subsidies

            The equipment ? Installation? Telephone requirements?

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: People don't understand the goal of these subsidies

        There's more to it than just internet service. The FCC complained about the sign up costs. The money can make that zero. There's also the cost of installation and telephone service

    6. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Let's go Brandon.

      It's not about return on investment. If they wanted to do that, people in rural areas could continue to live under the "we don't earn enough from your area so have fun with the microwave link" policy. They've gotten money to add service even though it won't turn a profit, and they're trying to use that money to add service that will last for some time. They could pay Starlink, and a lot of people would get service right now and the service would, while not meeting the speed requirements most of the time, be quite a lot better than what the users had before and useful for most things. The problem is that the money is not a recurring annual budget, but a one-time allocation. When it runs out, the satellites are still as expensive as they were before, they still need replacing every five years, and so there will be a lot of ongoing costs which will return to the individual consumer. With cables already having been installed, the fixed cost will have been paid for and the ongoing costs will be lower, so there's actually some chance that people can continue to run them after the money has been spent.

    7. Tom Reg

      Re: Let's go Brandon.

      We have a rural broadband plan in my area of rural Ontario Canada. $5k is a bargain. Property value increases are 5 times that or more. Who would buy a house with crappy internet?

      My current internet has great ping and 20MBit upload, but that’s not fibre.

  2. Omnipresent Bronze badge

    consequences of actions.

    Maybe if he hadn't outed himself as a russian spy, and habitual liar?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: consequences of actions.

      This denial has nothing to do with politics. You could read the rejection letter

  3. whoseyourdaddy

    I am confident there are off-grid homes that it is nearly impossible to dig fiber to.

    But, we must remember Starlink is an "easy" button that Telcos would love, love, love to resell instead of expanding their fiber network in rural areas.

    The US Govt has no business funding sat connectivity if there isn't any infastructure to invest in.

    Which has greater bandwidth, Starlink or fiber?

    Ultimately, I'd rather see Comcast expand their network than throw billions at a social media mogul who also sells cars that allow people to run their high-beams during the day, blinding oncoming traffic.

    Come on, Elon. Suns up. How do you guck that up?

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

      "...cars that allow people to run their high-beams during the day..."

      True of just about every car I've driven, including owned, leased, or rented, and I've been driving since 1995. I don't use the high-beams often (quite rarely, actually), but I could if I wanted, because in the past cars had less smarts and fewer controls on user behavior. I remember back when there wasn't even a safety check that the driver's belt was buckled. If anything, a high-tech company like Tesla would be the kind of opportunity to introduce such a feature to override the user input and keep the high-beams off for daytime safety's sake. (Some cars already have auto high-beams for nighttime, making me think it's tied into the situational awareness sensors; a daytime override wouldn't be a big addition.)

      And to your other point: Comcast? Really? Only if the gov't can get them to stop the predatory price hikes that make "customers" (victims) call and change plans every year (or worse, 6 months). And they need to improve their reliability also, based on the reports of my neighbors. In the capitalist tradition, I'll stick with any company -- even ignoring politics -- that gives me what I actually pay for as long as I'm getting a fair deal, and everyone I know says Comcast ain't it.

      1. whoseyourdaddy

        I used Comcast as an example.

        Once fiber is burired, what does it cost to replace the electronics?

        A fraction of what it costs to deploy new sats after orbiting space junk riddles it with holes and the batteries wear out?

        Allrighteythen...

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      I am confident there are off-grid homes that it is nearly impossible to dig fiber to.

      Unlikely, just very expensive. It could be run alongside power infrastructure, but with the same risks, ie polls getting knocked down, trees damaging wires. Or it could be dug into roads, but then road infrastructure in a lot of rural areas isn't great and has risks like landslides, roads being washed out. I think the long-term approach is to expand fibre coverage as part of road infrastructure upgrades. The incremental costs of adding ducts and access pits to roads is small compared to the cost of trying to do that as a stand-alone project. But there are a lot of challenges in doing something that is technically pretty simple, like who owns the roads.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Oxford English Dictionary

        There is no infrastructure in the hypothesis of off-grid homes. By definition.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Oxford English Dictionary

          There is no infrastructure in the hypothesis of off-grid homes. By definition.

          By definition, the FCC's plan is to provide that infrastructure. Subsidise the construction of fibre, home is no longer off-grid, at least for that service.

      2. xyz Silver badge

        I am confident there are off-grid homes that it is nearly impossible to dig fiber to.

        Yup, I live in one. 2kms down a track in a nature reserve. There is no mobile signal, water, gas or electricity or chance that I would even get the necessary permits to install the above. There is brand new sparkly fibre at the head of the track on the main road, but it may as well be on Mars for all the good it does me. So Starlink (>300mbs down and 30mbs up for 45€ a month) and solar for me.

        Considering that the price was 100€ a month 18 months ago and has dropped steadily, I can only presume that Starlink is trying to compete on price (eg DiGi is 500mbs fibre + 20gb mobile for 21€pcm but the average price for any provider is around 40€pcm), so that's why Musk is moaning. He doesn't want market competition and especially doesn't want subsidised market competition.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Yup, I live in one. 2kms down a track in a nature reserve. There is no mobile signal, water, gas or electricity or chance that I would even get the necessary permits to install the above. There is brand new sparkly fibre at the head of the track on the main road, but it may as well be on Mars for all the good it does me.

          Out of interest, why not? ie what permits would be required? Otherwise it's just a cost issue of running 2,000m of fibre at $X per meter. Where X normally makes it economically unfeasible, unless you're very wealthy and really want FTTH. And then it's findiing an ISP willing to do this, ie who owns the fibre at the head of the track and how much that would cost.

          But permits & wayleaves have always been FUN!. I'm assuming it's a private road, so permission would be needed from the landowner, who may say 'No', or demand a wayleave fee. Both increase the cost of X, especially if lawyers have to get involved. In the UK, licensed operators have a thing called 'Code Powers', which in theory permits them to JFDI, but in practice means legal costs. For apartments, there's also the Party Walls Act that can be used to prevent building (or apartment) owners preventing services being run to apartments. Again involves lawyers because building owners or managers often prefer to lock residents into their own services. So often when requests for places like that come in, the answer is usually 'NO' because it's too much of a ballache to do the paperwork, especially when you know that may add £50k to the cost of a service the customer is expecting for £20/month.

          But this is often a policy conflict. Governments want broadband to be a universal service and a basic right. Which it can be, given all the services that are becoming pretty much online only. What's missing is the joined-up thinking that mandates broadband or other utility provision in planning and building codes & regs. Want permission for a new-build estate or even home? Plans must include provision for fibre, with an access chamber at the boundary line. Cost is minimal, if done at the time of construction, but high if done after. Especially as a lot of those costs may end up getting loaded on the first potential subscriber.

          BT (Ok, Openreach) has a 'new build' team that helps developers with this stuff, but developers often ignore them. So I've seen new 'luxury' homes with 'free' broadband that turns out to be shared WiFi. But I've also seen smarter developers, eg I got to wander around the bowels of the Shard. It has very nice comms rooms with ODFs and racks because the developer knew their clients would want those services, so provision for them was included in the plans. Also ended up being one of those odd cases where the fibre costs for the inside plant were higher than the outside given the vertical distance. But stuff like that was one of the fun parts of being a network designer/planner.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why Starlink apparently not considered a replacement for broadband infrastructure in rural US...

    As I'm not American, I'm not overly familiar with the ins and outs of this subject (*), but I do recall some enlightening comments from the last major discussion on this topic, including these:-

    "Dimmer" said:-

    > My understanding is that ALL satellite based internet is not considered a broadband solution [because] 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 [thus] When you allow for space based internet. It could in theory exclude everyone [from being able to benefit from that subsidy]

    This is a problem because, as "DS999" replied:-

    > 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.

    (All emphasis mine).

    (*) Though I'm familiar enough with Musk himself to assume that any time he comes out with something like this nowadays, it's likely for purely self-serving reasons.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why Starlink apparently not considered a replacement for broadband infrastructure in rural US...

      The idea of a permanent subsidy is just ridiculous. Where do people get these ideas?

  5. t245t Silver badge
    Alien

    Musk is objecting to Starlink being excluded from the RDOF Fund

    Elon Musk has reacted angrily to the Biden administration pledging millions of dollars to bolster high-speed internet access.

    A bit disingenuous. Musk is objecting to Starlink being excluded from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF).

    The FCC decided that the chance of Starlink meeting its needs was not worth risking nearly a billion dollars over ten years.

    Live Starlink Satellite and Coverage Map

    Starlink Availability

  6. IGotOut Silver badge

    As I non-US citizen

    ...and suffering it's utterly corrupt telecom setup.

    Would it not be excluded more on the fact that it is proprietary and exclusive?

    Once you have starlink, you can ONLY have their service. It's not like you can decide actually I'd like the Starlink connection but use a different ISP.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As I non-US citizen

      The money is also going to fixed wireless and cable providers. Who's tech isn't exactly set up for that sort of line sharing.

  7. Philo T Farnsworth

    Alternate headline

    Blustering bozo billionaire bashes Biden broadband buildout binge.

  8. Dan 55 Silver badge

    "all subsidies should be eliminated" - Musk

    What's the problem, isn't this one step towards what he wanted?

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      Re: "all subsidies should be eliminated" - Musk

      Well, it's one step toward what he publicly says he wanted. Now whether it's what he really wants; who's to say?

  9. Someone Else Silver badge

    YAN "Deep-state conspiracy!"

    Carr issued a dissenting statement regarding the FCC decision in 2023 and suggested that Musk's acquisition of Twitter had led to Biden giving "federal agencies a green light to go after him."

    Get away from me with that bullshit. You know, for a political party who bitches, moans and wails about "entitlements", these fatasses do seem to have a highly honed sense of entitlement themselves. Basically, "If I want it, I'm entitled to it!"

    Oh yes, and don't forget, "It's so unfair!"

  10. aerogems Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Just no

    Fuck Starlink. The fact that it's backed by Xitler is like a tertiary level concern at best. As something of an astronomy enthusiast, I don't like having a bunch of little satellites up there blocking the view and potentially causing false readings for serious scientific endeavors. This is also a case where we just need to do the hard work of actually building a fiber network across the US, sort of like other countries have done.

    My basic proposal is still the same as it's always been. Tie the laying of fiber to the building of new roads. Dig a trench or something along the side of the road every time you have to rip one up to repave it or are laying a new one. In that trench goes some kind of pipe that contains lengths of fiber. You can tap into the power going to street lamps to keep any repeaters along the way active.* You lay the main trunks along the interstate highways, then you can branch off from there onto local highways and then city streets. At the city street level, each land parcel has its own hookup. It wouldn't be a particularly speedy way of doing it, but it would be very cost effective. And as long as things are set up in a modular way so you could come along and replace the fiber and repeaters without having to dig up the entire trench, it has an element of future proofing as well. This whole thing should be funded via taxpayer money and thus every single citizen has guaranteed access. Commercial entities would have to pay to access it, or use one of the existing commercial providers.

    I'm sure if the government started getting serious about this, all of a sudden Comcast, Verizon, and all the rest, would suddenly find that it makes economic sense for them to expand their own networks. This idea that it's cost prohibitive is just pure bullshit. My parents live in a town of about 5,000 full-time residents, and it happens to have one of the few remaining independent telecos from the AT&T breakup. They managed to lay fiber to basically the entire town, which is pretty spread out kind of running alongside a lake, and offer TV, phone, and Internet for less than just Internet from Comcast where I live. The lowest speed the teleco offers is now like 100/100Mbps. If a company serving a community of around 5,000 people can manage to lay fiber to basically every home in the city and be profitable, there's absolutely no reason why Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and all the rest couldn't do the same.

    The fact that this sort of thing would make Xitler throw an epic hissy fit like the petulant toddler he is... that's just gravy.

    * Come to think of it, if you already have street lights along a road, wouldn't there presumably already be some kind of setup exactly like I'm describing to hold the buried power lines?

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Just no

      Where I come from, not all rural roads have street lighting.

      But still, sounds like a plan. How are you promoting it?

      1. aerogems Silver badge

        Re: Just no

        I was just saying that if you happen to have street lights along the road, you've probably already got a lot of the necessary infrastructure for this sort of buildout. You've got power, you've probably got some kind of trench already dug out... and it could serve as a basic model for how to do it everywhere else. Hell, they could even decide to start adding more street lighting along with the fiber. And for that matter, this would be an excellent public works type project where you could hire people who are unemployed to go dig ditches and run cable. You don't really need any specialized skills for that, so you could hire anyone from a high school dropout to someone with a PhD in some obscure field (like medieval russian poetry) that means they can't find work.

    2. Helcat

      Re: Just no

      This is pretty much what we did when I worked for Cable in the UK (I worked for a Comcast owned company back then - now it's all owned by Virgin).

      There are issues and yes, the costs do add up. Running cable alongside the road is ideal, but there are limits to how far you can transmit a signal before you need a repeater, and that repeater needs power, and with rural roads you won't always have power (most rural roads don't have lighting and overhead power lines aren't of any use - you'd need a transformer to convert the power into something usable). Then you need to factor in the risks of theft of equipment: In the UK there are gangs who target rural areas to steal cable and equipment, so I would anticipate something similar in the US. The more cabling you run, the bigger the risk is of it being tampered with, and so the higher the cost to maintain the system. So depending on how isolated the community (how far you have to run the fibre) depends on how economic the project would be.

      Also with economics: There's a ratio between miles of cable needed and size of community served. I know it was used to prioritise where we'd build first (when I worked for cable in the UK), and we'd spur off the main trunk if passing close by a smaller community as it was within the economic ratio, but there were villages and isolated communities whose population was too small to make running cables that far to be viable, hence uneconomic, so they were basically out of luck. Not saying I agreed but it wasn't my decision: I was sorting out land access (Wayleaves) at the time, so I worked alongside the planners hence talking to them about where they planned to run our cabling next I'd expect it to be worse in the US due to the larger distances involved.

      1. aerogems Silver badge

        Re: Just no

        True, but somehow AT&T managed to run copper wire to pretty much every home in the US decades ago. Everyone from the farmer who is literally miles away from their nearest neighbor to places like New York where you have a very densely packed city, had phone service. So, what exactly is different between now and then?

        I have no problem with the idea of targeting large cities first, that just makes sense. However, saying that you're not going to provide service to some group of people because it doesn't make you enough money... that's where I have a problem.

        1. HereIAmJH

          Re: Just no

          Phone companies built out using the Universal Service Fund. Basically, all of their customers paid a specific tax that the Telcos kept to fund the buildout of their network. Surely you aren't suggesting they add a tax to our Comcast/Spectrum/etc monthly bill so they can build out in rural areas?

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Just no

            Too late, they've already tapped into normal taxes, allocated funds, and now intend to use them to spread into rural areas. They've got the money, and the only question now is how to spend it in order to provide the connections. It wasn't on your bill, but in your standard taxation, but the effect is the same.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don’t give a sucker an even break

    Send Musk away with a flea in his ear.

    He is toxic, his brand is toxic, he is not someone I’d ever engage with.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I thought Elmo was busy bringing Starlink to Auschwitz this week?

    Or something like that?

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. the Kris

    What exactly do they mean with a location?

    Do they mean a single family house or appartment, or entire appartment buildings, or a mix of those?

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: What exactly do they mean with a location?

      Do they mean a single family house or appartment, or entire appartment buildings, or a mix of those?

      Yes. Also random fields, or parks. But it's a kind of sample database potential providers can use for planning purposes, so calculate costs to provision services to those reference locations. Then providers can model it and do various risk and sensitivity analysis for scenarios like "If we put an access node there, how much would it cost, and how many potential subscribers could it collect?".

      But that's kinda what FCC wants, namely those access nodes and the infrastructure that supports them. Starlink or other broadband satellite services bypass all that stuff, so no new fibre infrastructure gets built, and subscribers are locked into satellite provision.

    2. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: What exactly do they mean with a location?

      Assuming they're using the same basic terminology as power companies and other telecos... A "customer" is an individual building. So, doesn't matter if you've got an apartment complex with 100 people living in it, or a free-standing house with only one person living in it, it's considered a single customer when they talk about how many customers are affected by an outage.

  15. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

    The FCC requirement for them to provide 100/20 did not kick in until December 2025

    At first, I thought it was a typo from El Reg, but after checking, it looks like Republican leave in a different reality...

  16. bigtreeman

    NBN equivalent

    faster | cheaper | better | sooner

    pick 2

    initially cheaper that is, until it falls out of the sky

    Just as Australia should have built a government owned, fiber network,

    before making promises of a better internet for all.

    Redundant, full coverage, future proof, disaster proof, corporate corruption proof.

  17. ZeroChaos85
    Megaphone

    Who is getting all the MONEY?

    Elon Musk is absolutely correct in his statement. The FCC is no more than a means to add red tape and further complicate the issues that people were already dealing with. His service was the only service that I had hopes of receiving in this area. I assume I can still get on my own, maybe unless AT&T gets more ignorant than they already are. I guess since they have resorted to people from the Presidents calling and harassing customers and calling them liars, it's possible they could prevent people from choosing not to use their shoddy and pathetic and unmaintained mess. (And YES, AT&T most certainly is engaging in defacto retirement of copper line service. I have personal experience and pictures.)

    This rural broadband "help" is a flipping joke. It's not a funny one, but it's a joke regardless. Somebody needs a pat on the back for finding a way to allow companies like AT&T, Verizon, and likely the rest of the "big" companies to make some serious extra income without having to hide that they are doing it. And if there was anyone who was of a mind to dig a little, they would probably find that there has been a huge amount of 'charitable donations' or whatever given to the FCC by those companies.

    I turned in a challenge because the FCC is obviously stupid or the people who are doing their maps are anyway. My address is on the opposite side of the road and down from the actual location about a quarter of mile. I sent them maps and a lovely illustration using an art program (because I couldn't use my crayons like I would if a 5yo needed help) showing the issue. I also explained that the speed listed was wrong. Conveniently it was @ 10Mbps (which is the minimum speed to consider an area served). Our speed here is 6Mbps MAX. I explained this and sent a copy of a transcript that said that the speed available here was just 6Mbps.

    You know what I got back? EIGHT MONTHS LATER (so this past December) I got an email that DENIED my challenge because they say I attempted to move my address outside the fabric parcel or some such BS. And they didn't even address the speed issue. I assume that AT&T is lying because they wouldn't want to be known for being so pathetic. Either way, everyone who pays attention to how the government operates understands that SOMEBODY somewhere is making major bank on this deal that does NOT help the actual rural people that it was intended for. So, next time you hear that this program is so great, call bullsheet on them. That's from a rural person who has been fighting with FCC and AT&T for THREE + years! And the number of people without internet at all or without a dependable connection is MUCH higher than they claim. I hope that this isn't violating any of the rules on The Register and so it's published so other people can see it. I'm not sure if it is possible to come back later and comment to "present my case" in a much more articulate manner.

  18. Necrohamster Silver badge

    If Elmo has proven anything it's that, time and time again, he can't be trusted

    "...in 2020, the FCC secured a commitment from Starlink to offer high-speed internet for just $1,377 per location."

    That guy can't be trusted to honour his agreements. Any "commitment" (to his employees, to governments, to anyone or anything...) is as much use as a chocolate teapot.

    The Pentagon was funding Starlink in Ukraine, but the service was mysteriously degraded or turned off at the time of Russian offensives in Crimea.

    Even though he presents as a libertarian-type businessman, it seems his companies exist to wangle as many government subsidies as possible...rather than be successful due to their own merits.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If Elmo has proven anything it's that, time and time again, he can't be trusted

      The Pentagon wasn't funding starlink in Ukraine and SpaceX didn't get any money meant to honor any commitment. That in fact is the point of this article

      “Negotiations are very much underway. Everyone in our building knows we’re going to pay them,” the senior Pentagon official told CNN, adding that the department is eager to have commitments in writing “because we worry he’ll change his mind.”

      "The outage affected a block of 1,300 terminals that Ukraine purchased from a British company in March and were used for combat-related operations. "

      When you pay your bills in full you get full service and you don't convert equipment against the agreements you signed

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