FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is on board with SpaceX’s satellite plan. (Flickr Photo / FCCDotGov)
SpaceX’s plan to beam broadband services to America and the world via its Starlink satellite constellation got a big thumbs-up today from Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
Pai’s endorsement isn’t exactly a surprise: The FCC already has given its approval to rival companies with similar plans, including OneWeb, Space Norway and Telesat.
Nevertheless, Pai’s praise probably made Valentine’s Day nicer for SpaceX, just days after the high-profile maiden launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket and days before the scheduled launch of the first prototype Starlink satellites.
Here’s how Pai put it in his statement:
“To bridge America’s digital divide, we’ll have to use innovative technologies. SpaceX’s
application — along with those of other satellite companies seeking licenses or access to the
U.S. market for non-geostationary satellite orbit systems — involves one such innovation.
Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where
fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach. And it can offer more competition where
terrestrial Internet access is already available.
“Following careful review of this application by our International Bureau’s excellent satellite
engineering experts, I have asked my colleagues to join me in supporting this application and
moving to unleash the power of satellite constellations to provide high-speed Internet to rural
Americans. If adopted, it would be the first approval given to an American-based company to
provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies.”
Satellite internet access is already available, of course, but the satellites for those services are in orbits so high that latency — that is, the delay in light-speed transmission — becomes a negative factor, particularly for broadband applications such as voice-over-internet phone services.
The fact that Starlink’s satellites are designed for low Earth orbit could make Starlink and similar …read more