Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Auction to Expand Broadband to Over 10 Million Americans

Rural broadband services to be provided with government funding. (Credit: FCC)

Phase I Auction Allocates $9.2 Billion to Close the Digital Divide in 49 States and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

WASHINGTON, December 7, 2020 (FCC PR) —The Federal Communications Commission announced today that millions of rural Americans in 49 states and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands will gain access to high-speed Internet service through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction.

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Bye Bye, Neutrality Pai: FCC Chairman to Call it Quits on Jan. 20

Ajit Pai
  • Chairman who led the effort to kill net neutrality will depart with the Trump Administration and his massive coffee cup
  • FCC approved constellations of thousands of satellites by SpaceX and Amazon under his leadership
  • Official announcement from the FCC is below

WASHINGTON, November 30, 2020 (FCC PR) —Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that he intends to leave the Federal Communications Commission on January 20, 2021. Chairman Pai issued the following statement:

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve at the Federal Communications Commission, including as Chairman of the FCC over the past four years. I am grateful to President Trump for giving me the opportunity to lead the agency in 2017, to President Obama for appointing me as a Commissioner in 2012, and to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and the Senate for twice confirming me. To be the first Asian-American to chair the FCC has been a particular privilege. As I often say: only in America.

“I also deeply appreciate the chance to have worked alongside the FCC’s talented staff. They are the agency’s best assets, and they have performed heroically, especially during the pandemic. It’s also been an honor to work with my fellow Commissioners to execute a strong and broad agenda. Together, we’ve delivered for the American people over the past four years: closing the digital divide; promoting innovation and competition, from 5G on the ground to broadband from space; protecting consumers; and advancing public safety. And this FCC has not shied away from making tough choices. As a result, our nation’s communications networks are now faster, stronger, and more widely deployed than ever before.

“I am proud of how productive this Commission has been, from commencing five spectrum auctions and two rural broadband reverse auctions in four years, to opening 1,245 megahertz of mid-band spectrum for unlicensed use, to adopting more than 25 orders through our Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative, to aggressively protecting our communications networks from national security threats at home and abroad, to designating 988 as the three digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and much, much more. I’m also proud of the reforms we have instituted to make the agency more accountable to the American people. In particular, for the first time ever, we’ve made public drafts of the proposals and orders slated for a vote three weeks before the agency’s monthly meetings, making this the most transparent FCC in history.

“Last but not least, I want to thank my family for all they have done to enable me to serve at the agency. The public service of one generally results from the private sacrifice of many, and I’m grateful for their love and support.”

Satellite Companies Can Bid for $9 Billion in Mobile Wireless Subsidies

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Satellite companies will be able to bid for up to $9 billion in subsidies over the next decade under the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 5G Fund for Rural America if they can meet a high standard for 5G mobile wireless service.

“We believe that adopting a round-trip latency requirement of 100 milliseconds or better for all areas better achieves our goal of ensuring access to services reasonably comparable to those in urban areas,” the FCC said. “One of the key benefits of 5G over other mobile technologies is reduced latency.”

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SpaceX Launches 60 Starlink Satellites on 100th Successful Mission

SpaceX launched 60 Starlink broadband satellites into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 on Saturday, completing the company’s 100th successful launch since the first successful Falcon 1 launch in September 2008.

The 15th dedicated Starlink flight brought to the number of constellation satellites launched to 895. A number of satellites have been deorbited or failed.

Falcon 9 lifted off at 11:31 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Launching for the third time, Falcon 9’s first stage touched down on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. The stage previously flew for the GPS III 03 mission in June 2020 and a Starlink mission in September 2020. 

Starlink is designed to provide fast broadband service across the globe. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has given Elon Musk’s company permission to launch nearly 12,000 Starlink satellites. SpaceX has applied to raise that number by 30,000 to 42,000.

The company has been conducting a private beta test of the Starlink constellation. Musk has said SpaceX will begin a public beta test soon.

SpaceX, Hughes and ViaSat Among 386 Qualified Bidders for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund

Sixty Starlink satellites separate from a Falcon 9 second stage on April 22, 2020. (Credit: SpaceX website)

Beginning on October 29, 386 Applicants May Bid for Up to $16 Billion in Support to Bring Broadband to Up to 10.25 Million Unserved Americans

WASHINGTON, October 13, 2020 (FCC PR) — The Federal Communications Commission today announced that 386 applicants are qualified to bid in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction. In a Public Notice, the Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force, Office of Economics and Analytics, and Wireline Competition Bureau identified the qualified applicants and provided educational materials for participating in the auction.

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Constellationizing Space: Chinese Company Seeks Approval to Launch Nearly 13,000 Satellites

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Larry Press reports a Chinese company named GW has filed for spectrum allocation from the International Telecommunication Union for two broadband constellations called GW-A59 and GW-2 that would include 12,992 satellites.

The size of GW’s request indicates to Press that the company would compete globally with broadband constellations being built by SpaceX, OneWeb and Amazon. He wrote:

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Intelsat Finalizes Satellite and Launch Vehicle Contracts for U.S. C-band Spectrum Transition

McLean, Va. (Intelsat PR) – Intelsat, operator of the world’s largest integrated satellite and terrestrial network, today announced it has finalized all of its required contracts with satellite manufacturers and launch-vehicle providers to move forward and meet the accelerated C-band spectrum clearing timelines established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) earlier this year.

The company has entered into a formal agreement with U.S.-based Maxar Technologies to build the final satellite required to support its C-band transition and maintain the FCC’s post-transition, “same or better” quality-of-service standard. Earlier this summer, Intelsat announced manufacturing contracts with Maxar and U.S.-based Northrop Grumman for six satellites.

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Virgin Galactic to Conduct Suborbital Flight in Late October After Long Hiatus

SpaceShipTwo Unity’s second powered flight.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic plans to resume suborbital flight tests of SpaceShipTwo (SS2) VSS Unity in late October from Spaceport America in New Mexico after a 20-month long hiatus, according to a filing the company made with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

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OneWeb Gets FCC Approval for Additional 1,280 Satellites

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Satellite broadband provider OneWeb received FCC approval this week to launch an additional 1,280 satellites, increasing the size of the company’s constellation to 2,000 spacecraft.

The additional satellites will provide services in the V-band and operate at an altitude of 8,500 km (5,282 miles).

“After review of the record, we conclude that granting OneWeb access to the U.S. market for its proposed V-band satellite system would increase competition for the broadband services proposed to be provided by such systems to American consumers, particularly in underserved areas, offer a greater likelihood that such a large system is able to fulfill its ambitions and deploy the proposed services, and thereby serve the public interest, subject to the requirements and conditions specified herein,” the FCC said.

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Thales Alenia Space to Build SES-22 and SES-23 Satellites

CANNES (Thales Alenia Space PR) – Thales Alenia Space, a joint-venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), announced that it has signed a contract with SES to build SES-22 and SES-23, geostationary communications satellites. These two new satellites are designed to provide digital broadcasting services over North America.

Thales Alenia Space will be responsible for the design, production, testing of the satellites and support of the payload in-orbit acceptance tests. SES-22 and SES-23 are based on the proven Spacebus 4000 B2 platform and will be 3.5-ton class satellites at launch.

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Trump Withdraws Nomination of O’Rielly to Serve as FCC Commissioner

President Donald Trump has withdrawn the nomination of Michael P. O’Rielly for another five-year term on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

SpaceNews reports the White House withdrew the nomination because O’Rielly opposed a petition by the Trump Administration asking the FCC to re-examine section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Section 230 provides free speech protections to Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Conservatives have accused the companies of censoring their views and want the immunity removed.

O’Rielly’s nomination was already on hold in the Senate at the time it was withdrawn. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) announced on July 28 that he had put a hold on the nomination until O’Rielly publicly committed to overturning the FCC’s Ligado order.

In April, FCC commissioners approved a modification to Ligado’s license to operate L-band communications services. The approval was opposed by the Trump Administration, the Defense Department, and other agencies that believe it will interfere with Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation signals.

“I understand that O’Rielly has stated that he would give ‘due consideration to a stay’ ‘based on new data or evidence’ – but that isn’t enough,” Inhofe said in a statement. “This isn’t just about our military, but all users of GPS are united in opposition. All of America can’t be wrong, and he understands that. I need his commitment in plain English to vote to overturn the order, not just consider it, before I will allow his nomination to proceed.”   

SES Selects SpaceX for Launch of New C-Band Satellites

Falcon 9 lifts off on Spaceflight SSO-A mission. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

Luxembourg, 5 August 2020 (SES PR) – SES, the leader in global content connectivity solutions, announced today that American launch provider SpaceX will provide launch capability for up to 3 of its C-band satellites over two launches as part of the company’s accelerated C-band clearing plan.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will launch two C-band satellites built by Northrop Grumman as well as provide enhanced protection to rapidly launch a contingency satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida in 2022 allowing SES to meet the Federal Communications Commission’s time-critical objective to roll out 5G services across the United States.

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SES Selects ULA Atlas V to Launch Two C-Band Satellites to Accelerate C-Band clearing

An Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-6 mission for the U.S Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 4:18 p.m. EDT on March 26, 2020. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

LUXEMBOURG, 5 August 2020 (SES PR) – SES, the leader in global content connectivity solutions, has selected U.S.-based United Launch Alliance (ULA) to launch two C-band satellites.

This launch is part of the company’s accelerated C-band clearing plan to meet the Federal Communications Commission’s objectives to roll out 5G services in the United States. ULA’s Atlas V rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida in 2022 and carry the two stacked satellites.

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