SpaceX, Charter, Verizon, CenturyLink, Frontier, Cox, and about 500 other companies are seeking government funding to provide broadband in rural areas. The Federal Communications Commission yesterday released a list of applicants for the first phase of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), which is set to pay up to $16 billion to Internet service providers over 10 years.
SpaceX would be the first low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite provider to get FCC rural-broadband funding. The RDOF and predecessor programs generally fund expansion of wired or terrestrial wireless services by paying ISPs to expand their networks into rural areas where they would not otherwise have built.
As a satellite provider, SpaceX won’t need to install wires or wireless towers in any particular area. But traditional satellite providers have obtained FCC funding before despite already offering service throughout the United States. For example, the FCC’s Connect America Fund last year awarded $87.1 million to satellite operator Viasat on condition that it provide service in specific parts of 17 states at lower prices and with higher data caps “than it typically provides in areas where it is not receiving Connect America Fund support.”