Commissioner Brandon Carr slammed the US regulator’s decision earlier this month to cancel the $885.5 million Elon Musk’s Starlink won in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, claiming the reversal constitutes clear error and plainly exceeds agency authority.

Carr, the senior Republican Commissioner at the FCC, has been vocal about what he says is the lack of a coherent national strategy for the federal government’s efforts to bridge the digital divide.

Starlink submitted a winning bid to provide high-speed Internet to 642,925 unserved rural homes and businesses across 35 states in late 2020 despite FCC reticence to include the company in an auction process due to concerns over its ability to deliver low-latency broadband services from its satellites.

 In a public notice announcing the reversal, FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel stated that while Starlink’s technology has real promise, she questioned the decision to publicly subsidise its still developing technology for consumer broadband.

She also noted that Starlink’s service required users to purchase a $600 dish as another factor in the decision.

Carr stated the FCC is “providing universal service awards for far slower internet services that cost consumers far more” and that the price of equipment wasn’t a consideration in 2020.

Carr argued that Starlink was on track to meet its RDOF requirements and cited the satellite provider’s $1.9 billion deal to provide Internet services to US Air Force bases as proof of the confidence other federal agencies have in it.

By pulling Starlink out of the RDOF programme, he also stated that families where Starlink would have provided service in rural areas will now have a longer wait.

“By reversing course, the FCC has just chosen to vaporise that commitment and replace it with nothing. That’s a decision to leave families waiting on the wrong side of the digital divide when we have the technology to get them high-speed service today.”