Starlink Sees Congresswoman Support It In Fight With DISH At FCC

Wise County in Virginia.

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Space Exploration Technologies Corporation's (SpaceX) Starlink satellite internet service is continuing to see strong support from members of the public and government officials. Starlink is currently embroiled in a years long tussle at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), where it and some other satellite internet providers are fighting against efforts to further open up the 12GHz spectrum for use by fifth generation (5G) terrestrial services. Starlink uses the spectrum to receive data from its satellites, and the SpaceX subsidiary recently asked its customers to appeal to their lawmakers to argue the merits of keeping the space as it is for satellite use.

These appeals seem to have borne some fruit, as a filing by a Florida Congresswoman made to the FCC earlier this week urged the Commission to ensure that any possible changes to the current rules do not affect the satellite companies. Another filing, made by a Norton, Virginia Circuit Court clerk requests the FCC to ensure that the proceeding does not hamper satellite internet deployment.

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The debate for the 12GHz spectrum was revitalized earlier this year when SpaceX submitted a landmark study to the FCC that outlined serious threats to Starlink customers in the U.S. if the Commission were to grant the proposals in place by DISH Network. This study was based on an earlier study submitted by RS Access, LLC which is a multi channel video and data distribution service (MVDDS) provider that aims to also use the 12GHz band to provide terrestrial services.

SpaceX argued that the study made incorrect technical assumptions including incorrect modeling of Starlink user dish heights, coverage assumptions for RS Access's equipment and hypothetical deployment scenarios. Correcting for these, SpaceX's own study showed that if the 12GH band rules were changed, then existing Starlink U.S users would experience complete outage 74% of the time in the regions where Starlink and terrestrial 5G stations were deployed.

SpaceX's graph describes the effect of interference on Starlink.

Now, Florida congresswoman Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) has spoken out in the favor of Starlink and urged the FCC to not make any new spectrum rules that would jeopardize exiting service. In her letter filed yesterday, Ms. Cammack explained to the regulatory body that several thousand constituents in Flordia rely on Starlink as their primary broadband service. She also stated that a hefty chunk of taxpayer funds is also being invested to expand satellite internet coverage and these investments will be at risk if the 12GHz spectrum becomes hostile to the satellite internet.

Citing SpaceX's study, the congresswoman also noted that companies aiming to expand the 12GHz spectrum have not provided any technical information on how they will not harm those already using the band. Consequently, she urged the Commission, and its chair to "seriously consider the effect of terrestrial operations on satellite services."

Ms. Cammack was joined by Jack Kennedy, Clerk of the Circuit Court in Wise County and City of Norton, Virginia. Mr. Kenndy was more direct than the congresswoman, as he stressed that Starlink has provided crucial benefits to the residents in his community. He shared that through Starlink, more than one thousand youth have gained first time internet access in the Central Appalachian Households, and by the end of this year, 500 homes and 1,000+ students will also gain internet access through it.

The first page of Mr. Kennedy's letter. Image: FCC Docket 20-443

Using these statistics, the Clerk stressed that the unresolved 12GHz proceeding will place at-risk youth at a disadvantage in acquiring internet connectivity. He outlined that in addition to the millions of dollars already invested in satellite internet to enable schoolchildren to finish their homework, "[c]ommunities have intention to invest millions of dollars more in the months ahead" but that these investments will be at risk if the feasibility of the service is perceived to be in jeopardy.

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He outlined the benefits to his community from Starlink by stating that:

Starlink's use of the 12-gigahertz spectrum has enabled broadband connectivity speeds to remote Appalachian Mountain citizens, giving hope for better education, higher quality health care and remote iobs in post-coal extraction communities that have suffered displacement, iob loss, poverty, poor health care services that may, at least, be mitigated through the space-based broadband services now being offered by Space Exploration Technologies Corporation's Stalink services. We are very grateful that SpaceX has not overlooked the Appalachian region, as so many do in our body politic.

Mr. Kennedy concluded his letter by asking the FCC to consider the Applachian children in its decision, and immediately dismiss the efforts to change the current 12GHz spectrum sharing rules.

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