Starlink – the satellite broadband provider backed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX venture – has filed documentation with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC). The request comes after Starlink secured funding commitments worth USD885 million as part of the FCC’s Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction, which concluded in December 2020. The ETC designation is needed in all census blocks that will be served by Starlink, pursuant to the RDOF within Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Starlink says it needs a decision by 7 June 2021 in order to meet the FCC’s funding deadline. In total, the watchdog awarded USD9.2 billion worth of funding to 180 bidders.
Back in 2018 the FCC authorised SpaceX to deploy and operate a constellation of more than 4,400 satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). SpaceX seeks to become the world’s first high-speed, low-latency satellite ISP, coordinating the largest fleet of operating satellites to deliver a consistent broadband service to the most disconnected areas. Discussing the company’s progress to date, this month’s FCC filing notes: ‘Starlink’s performance is not theoretical or experimental. Over 10,000 users in the United States and abroad are using the service today. While its performance is rapidly accelerating in real time as part of its public beta programme, the Starlink network has already successfully demonstrated it can surpass the Commission’s Above Baseline and Low Latency performance tiers.’