SpaceX is deploying Starlink satellites to connect areas across the world where internet connection is unreliable and unavailable. According to a report by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), approximately 19 million Americans still lack access to fixed broadband service at reliable speeds. In rural and tribal areas in the United States 14.5 million people do not have access to the internet at all where they live. SpaceX's Starlink satellite constellation will be capable of providing high-speed broadband internet everywhere, even the most remote areas on Earth. The Starlink constellation will initially be comprised of 4,409 satellites. So far, SpaceX has deployed around 768 internet-beaming satellites that operate in Low Earth Orbit, which enables a faster, more reliable service compared to terrestrial networks. SpaceX targets to begin offering service in northern United States before this year ends.
The FCC will distribute funding to American internet provider companies under a program called - Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). The FCC states this fund is the “commission’s next step in bridging the digital divide to efficiently fund the deployment of broadband networks in rural America. Through a two-phase reverse auction mechanism, the FCC will direct up to $20.4 billion over 10 years to finance up to gigabit speed broadband networks in unserved rural areas, connecting millions of American homes and businesses to digital opportunity,” the Commission wrote.
On October 13, FCC announced the companies that are eligible to bid from RDOF's first funding round of $16 billion. SpaceX is one of the 386 companies that qualified to bid in the federal auction that will begin on October 29. The $16 billion available in the auction will be distributed among internet providers that qualifed over the 10-year period, so they can deploy internet in rural communites across the United States.
To qualify to bid for the RDOF federal funding auction, the FCC requires that any company participating must demonstrate its internet meets a latency under 100 milliseconds (ms). SpaceX already initiated a private beta testing phase of the Starlink network with company employees. The company told the FCC its nework is capable of offering low-latency broadband internet under 20ms, with download speeds greater than 100 megabits per second.
Starlink users will receive broadband connection from the satellites in space via user dish terminals. Earlier this year, the FCC granted SpaceX the operation of 1 million dish terminals in the United States. SpaceX recently submitted a new request, seeking to increase the number of Starlink user terminals and Wi-Fi routers to 5 million. SpaceX says it “invested over $70 million developing and producing thousands of consumer user terminals per month” and “high-rate production soon to come.” The company is asking potential customers to submit their e-mail via Starlink.com to receive updates of when the service will be available in their area.