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FCC nixes rural Starlink satellite Internet subsidy as it greenlights T-Mobile phone connection tests

Falcon Heavy USSF-52 satellite launch mission (image: SpaceX)
Falcon Heavy USSF-52 satellite launch mission (image: SpaceX)
Elon Musk's mom had some strong words to say to President Biden's administration for granting and snatching $886 million in federal rural Starlink Internet subsidy. Meanwhile, SpaceX prepares to launch its first satellites with direct-to-cell connectivity.

SpaceX is on the verge of launching its first Starlink satellites with direct-to-cell capability later today, if the Falcon 9 rocket flight doesn't get postponed again due to unfavorable recovery weather conditions. This particular launch is unique in the sense that it will carry six Starlink satellites with the cellular connectivity that Elon Musk promised to bring to phones in partnership with T-Mobile.

Starlink satellite connectivity on T-Mobile

According to SpaceX, the direct-to-cell satellites will "will enable mobile network operators around the world to provide seamless global access to texting, calling and browsing on land, lakes or coastal waters." Needless to say, the "browsing" part will come at a much later date as, initially, T-Mobile's SpaceX partnership will only allow its phones to text without cellular connection, much like the iPhone's satellite solution.

The move comes immediately after the FCC granted "experimental special temporary authorization" to SpaceX on Thursday to carry preliminary testing of the functionality for interoperability and interference with actual T-Mobile handsets. SpaceX has only until mid-June to get all of the interference ducks in order before the FCC greenlights the functionality, so it isn't wasting any time to shoot the first direct-to-cell satellites into orbit.

Starlink rural satellite Internet

Unfortunately, that same FCC first giveth and now yanked $885.5 million in Starlink rural satellite Internet connectivity subsidies from SpaceX. Elon Musk's company challenged the decision from last August, but the FCC just upheld its grant disbursement decision this week, forcing a rather strong dissenting opinion from Commissioner Carr as well as from Elon Musk's own mother.

"First, the FCC revokes Starlink’s $885 million award by making up an entirely new standard of review that no entity could ever pass and then applying that novel standard to only one entity: Starlink," argues Carr, and adds that "over 642,000 rural homes & businesses would have gained high-speed Internet access for the first time ever under the deal."

Maye Musk was even more direct, saying that her son's goal is "to make this world a better place [while] POTUS wants to stop him." "People in other countries are proud of Elon and do not understand the US President’s motive," she added in defense of her son.

Tesla's CEO also weighed in when the FCC ruling was upheld, opining that "the companies that lobbied for this massive earmark (not us) thought they would win, but instead were outperformed by Starlink, so now they’re changing the rules to prevent SpaceX from competing," and leaving the ball in the FCC's court. 

Get the Starlink Standard Kit at Best Buy


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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2023 12 > FCC nixes rural Starlink satellite Internet subsidy as it greenlights T-Mobile phone connection tests
Daniel Zlatev, 2023-12-15 (Update: 2023-12-15)