Networking

FCC's Ajit Pai pushes for approval for SpaceX satellite internet

The FCC chairman said he supports the program that could use space satellites to provide internet to rural communities and more.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • FCC chairman Ajit Pai suggested the commission allow SpaceX to use satellites to provide broadband internet.
  • If approved by the rest of the commission, SpaceX's satellites could provide internet to much of the US and beyond, increasing connectivity.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai proposed the commission approve SpaceX's application to use satellites to provide internet Wednesday.

SpaceX, a firm founded by Elon Musk, wants to use multiple earth-orbiting satellites to provide broadband internet service. If the rest of the FCC approves their proposal, the firm could expand internet availability in the US, boosting connectivity.

The Trump administration has placed a focus on increasing broadband connectivity in rural areas in the past month. In January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order expediting federal permitting processes for companies trying to provide broadband internet in rural areas. A week later, Pai proposed $500 million in funding for smaller carriers trying to bring internet to those areas.

SEE: Internet and Email usage policy (Tech Pro Research)

"To bridge America's digital divide, we'll have to use innovative technologies," Pai said in a statement. "Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach. And it can offer more competition where terrestrial internet access is already available."

If passed, it would be the first time an American-based company was approved to use this technology to provide broadband internet, Pai said in his statement.

Around 4,800 low-earth orbit satellites were scheduled to be launched by 2025, with the first 800 launched by the end of 2019, according to 2015 SpaceX documents. The program was estimated to provide nearly 50 million people with internet.

While the federal approval may happen quickly, SpaceX hasn't provided many comments about how far along the project is. Generally, past comments suggested that the broadband service took a backseat to other company projects, the Wall Street Journal said.

SpaceX is known for other forward-thinking, space-focused efforts. In February 2017, Musk said two private citizens will pay to fly to the moon with the firm in late 2018. Musk also announced the firm's plan to colonize Mars, with an 80 day trip costing around $200,000 per person, in 2016.

Also see

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Image: SpaceX/YouTube

About Olivia Krauth

Olivia Krauth is a Multiplatform Reporter at TechRepublic.

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