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SpaceX Seeks $16 Billion in Government Subsidies for Satellite Internet Project

By Rich Smith - Mar 12, 2020 at 10:53AM

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Federal funds would help to build SpaceX's Starlink broadband internet satellite constellation.

SpaceX wants to sell you satellite broadband internet -- and have the U.S. government pay for it.

At least ... pay for a part of it -- the start-up part. According to Elon Musk, it's going to cost in the neighborhood of $10 billion to build a planned satellite constellation of 12,000 "Starlink" broadband internet satellites. Once built, those will be able to provide fast internet service to every location on the globe.

Satellite beaming transmission down to Earth

Image source: Getty Images.

Of course, a subset of "everywhere" includes rural areas of the United States, and "the FCC has earmarked $16 billion to improve internet service in rural areas over the next 10 years," reports The Wall Street Journal.

Seeing how its interests align with those of the Federal Communications Commission, SpaceX last month sat down with FCC staff to attempt to convince them that it should be allowed to compete for the federal funds against established cable and internet companies that already sell broadband internet access to rural locations via fiber optic cables on Earth.

Those incumbent providers are opposing the company's ambition to compete for the funds, arguing that the company's technology is unproven. But as far back as October 2019, when Starlink still had only a handful of satellites in orbit, Elon Musk was able to broadcast a tweet round the internet:

in a recent statement, SpaceX argued that prohibiting SpaceX "from participating in the auction at the levels that match the true capabilities of its system could have the unintended consequence of denying consumers in rural areas the best possible service and choices."

FCC is soliciting public comments on the matter, and has not yet decided how it will rule.

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