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FCC Gives SpaceX $886M for 35-State Broadband Expansion

With its $886 million award from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is set to expand satellite broadband access in more than 640,000 locations across the United States.

by / December 8, 2020
A Starlink mission launch. Courtesy Image: SpaceX (Flickr)

SpaceX, Elon Musk's aerospace company, now has roughly $886 million in federal funds to connect homes and businesses via satellite Internet. 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which administers the $20 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), made the announcement yesterday. Through its satellite Internet constellation called Starlink, SpaceX must bring connectivity to 642,925 locations across 35 states, including California, New York and Florida. 

Only three organizations won more money than SpaceX: the Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium with about $1.1 billion; Charter Communications with about $1.2 billion; and LTD Broadband with about $1.3 billion.

According to Ars Technica, Starlink's beta service has an upfront charge of $499 for equipment and a monthly fee of $99 for speeds that range between 50 Mbps and 150 Mbps. These speeds surpass the FCC's broadband download definition of 25 Mbps.

In its RDOF awards announcement, the FCC said 99.7 percent of locations assigned to awardees "will be receiving broadband with speeds of at least 100/20 Mbps, with an overwhelming majority (over 85 percent) getting gigabit-speed broadband."

In May 2019, SpaceX launched its first 60 Starlink satellites. The company now has close to 1,000 satellites in orbit. 

In recent months, SpaceX has helped reconnect rural areas of Washington that were hit by fires and partnered with a Texas school district to bring high-speed Internet to families in need. 

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