Aerospace company SpaceX was awarded almost $1 billion from a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rural broadband fund, boosting the company’s plan to deliver internet connectivity from a fleet of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites.
It received $885.5 million in a reverse auction for the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), a $9.2 billion pot the US regulator stated would help deliver high-speed broadband to more than 5.2 million unserved homes and businesses.
Chairman Ajit Pai hailed the auction as “the single largest step ever taken to bridge the digital divide”.
SpaceX will receive the funding in monthly instalments over the next decade: it is required to cover a total of 642,925 locations across 35 states.
The win is significant because there was previously a debate over whether the company should be allowed to participate due to concerns over its ability to provide low-latency service: the FCC reluctantly approved its inclusion in June.
Other winners include rural internet provider LTD Broadband ($1.3 billion); cable operator Charter Communications ($1.2 billion); and the Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium utility group ($1.1 billion).
The RDOF is distinct from a $9 billion 5G Fund for Rural America unveiled in 2019, which is yet to be allocated.
CNBC previously reported SpaceX launched a public beta of its Starlink service in October.