$10 billion fund starts giving US states money for broadband expansions

A pile of money with $20, $50, and $100 bills.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Alan Schein)

The US Treasury Department has started approving broadband grants to states from a $10 billion fund created to expand access to Internet service and other digital connectivity tools.

The Treasury Department’s announcement on Tuesday said the first approved projects would “connect over 200,000 homes and businesses to affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet” in Louisiana, New Hampshire, Virginia, and West Virginia. The funded networks will provide symmetrical service with download and upload speeds of at least 100Mbps, the department said.

The four states are getting a combined $583 million from the $10 billion Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (CPF), which Congress passed in March 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. “Treasury designed its guidance to prioritize connecting families and businesses with poor and inadequate service—particularly those in rural and remote areas. Treasury also requires states to explain why communities they have identified to be served with funds from the CPF have a critical need for those projects,” the department said.

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#biden, #biz-it, #broadband, #policy

A mysterious satellite hack has victims far beyond Ukraine

A mysterious satellite hack has victims far beyond Ukraine

Enlarge (credit: bjdlzx | Getty Images)

More than 22,000 miles above Earth, the KA-SAT is locked in orbit. Traveling at 7,000 miles per hour, in sync with the planet’s rotation, the satellite beams high-speed Internet down to people across Europe. Since 2011, it has helped homeowners, businesses, and militaries get online. However, as Russian troops moved into Ukraine during the early hours of February 24, satellite Internet connections were disrupted. A mysterious cyberattack against the satellite’s ground infrastructure—not the satellite itself—plunged tens of thousands of people into Internet darkness.

Among them were parts of Ukraine’s defenses. “It was a really huge loss in communications in the very beginning of war,” Viktor Zhora, a senior official at Ukraine’s cybersecurity agency, the State Services for Special Communication and Information Protection (SSSCIP), reportedly said two weeks later. He did not provide any more details, and SSSCIP did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment. But the attack against the satellite Internet system, owned by US company Viasat since last year, had even wider ramifications. People using satellite Internet connections were knocked offline all across Europe, from Poland to France.

Almost a month after the attack, the disruptions continue. Thousands still remain offline in Europe—around 2,000 wind turbines are still disconnected in Germany—and companies are racing to replace broken modems or fix connections with updates. Multiple intelligence agencies, including those in the US and Europe, are also investigating the attack. The Viasat hack is arguably the largest publicly known cyberattack to take place since Russia invaded Ukraine, and it stands out for its impact beyond Ukraine’s borders. But questions about the details of the attack, its purpose, and who carried it out remain—although experts have their suspicions.

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#biz-it, #broadband, #hacking, #internet, #russian-invasion, #satellite-broadband, #satellite-internet, #ukraine

Senate Republicans: Don’t let states choose where to spend broadband money

A US map with lines representing communications networks.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | metamorworks)

Senate Republicans are crying foul over a Biden administration plan to fund broadband deployment in regions that are already served with 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload speeds.

The US Treasury Department’s recently issued final rule for distributing American Rescue Plan money eliminated an interim requirement that blocked broadband funds in areas that already have wired networks with speeds of at least 25Mbps/3Mbps. That speed threshold would leave out any area that’s already served by at least one cable provider, even if there’s no competition and no fiber-to-the-home availability.

The Treasury Department’s reversal was praised by community broadband advocates who said that keeping the original 25Mbps/3Mbps threshold could prevent deployment to large portions of the US containing more than 90 percent of Americans. The nation’s current broadband maps are also unreliable, raising the possibility that even homes without 25Mbps/3Mbps broadband access could be excluded.

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#biden, #broadband, #policy, #senate-republicans

Biden’s “historic” $65 billion broadband plan approved by Congress

President Joe Biden speaking at a press conference.

Enlarge / President Joe Biden speaks about the passage of the infrastructure bill during a press conference at the White House on November 6, 2021. (credit: Getty Images | Samuel Corum)

President Biden’s $65 billion broadband plan was passed by the House of Representatives on Friday as part of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. While it’s not as big as Biden’s original broadband plan, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society called it “the largest US investment in broadband deployment ever.”

The biggest portion of the broadband spending is $42.45 billion for a Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program that would give subsidies to ISPs that build in unserved areas. Another $14.2 billion goes to an Affordable Connectivity Fund that is essentially a longer-term version of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program created for the pandemic. Under the new version, subsidies for eligible households will be $30 a month instead of the original $50.

Another broadband provision gives $2.75 billion for digital equity grants to states to “facilitate the adoption of broadband by covered populations in order to provide educational and employment opportunities to those populations.” Grants can cover a variety of needs including training, broadband equipment, and “public access computing centers for covered populations through community anchor institutions.” Covered populations include low-income households, racial and ethnic minorities, rural residents, veterans, people with disabilities, people with language barriers, and people who are 60 or older.

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#biden, #broadband, #policy

Alphabet’s Project Taara is beaming high-speed internet across the Congo River

Alphabet ended Project Loon earlier this year, but the things it learned from the internet-broadcasting balloon initiative haven’t gone to waste. The high speed wireless optical link technology originally developed for Loon is currently being used for another moonshot called Project Taara. In a new blog post, Taara’s Director of Engineering, Baris Erkmen, has revealed that the initiative’s wireless optical communications (WOC) links are now beaming high-speed connectivity across the Congo River.

The idea for Taara started when the Loon team successfully used WOC to beam data between Loon balloons that were more than 100 kilometers apart. The team wanted to explore how the technology can be used on the ground. As part of the team’s exploration on WOC’s potential applications, they worked on bridging the connectivity gap between Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The two locations are separated by the Congo River and are only 4.8 kilometers apart. However, internet connectivity costs much, much more in Kinshasa, because providers will have to lay down enough fiber connection to cover 400 kilometers of ground around the river. What Project Taara did was install links that can beam high-speed connectivity from Brazzaville to Kinshasa across the river instead. Within 20 days and with 99.9 percent availability, the links served served nearly 700 TB of data.

How Project Taara's optical beaming connectivity works

How Project Taara’s optical beaming connectivity works.

Taara’s WOC links work by seeking each other out and linking their beams of light together to create a high-speed internet connection. It’s not ideal for use in foggy locations, but Project Taara has developed network planning tools that can estimate WOC availability based on various factors like weather. In the future, the team will be able to use those tools to plan for the locations where Taara’s technology will work best.

Baris Erkmen, Director of Engineering for Taara, wrote in the post:

“Better tracking accuracy, automated environmental responses and better planning tools are helping Taara’s links deliver reliable high-speed bandwidth to places that fiber can’t reach, and helping us connect communities that are cut off from traditional ways of delivering connectivity. We’re really excited about these advances, and are looking forward to building on them as we continue developing and refining Taara’s capabilities.”

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.

#alphabet, #broadband, #column, #tc, #tceng

Billogram, provider of a payments platform specifically for recurring billing, raises $45M

Payments made a huge shift to digital platforms during the Covid-19 pandemic — purchasing moved online for many consumers and businesses; and a large proportion of those continuing to buy and sell in-person went cash-free. Today a startup that has been focusing on one specific aspect of payments — recurring billing — is announcing a round of funding to capitalize on that growth with expansion of its own. Billogram, which has built a platform for third parties to build and handle any kind of recurring payments (not one-off purchases), has closed a round of $45 million.

The funding is coming from a single investor, Partech, and will be used to help the Stockholm-based startup expand from its current base in Sweden to six more markets, Jonas Suijkerbuijk, Billogram’s CEO and founder, said in an interview, to cover more of Germany (where it’s already active now), Norway, Finland, Ireland, France, Spain, and Italy.

The company got its start working with SMBs in 2011 but pivoted some years later to working with larger enterprises, which make up the majority of its business today. Suijkerbuijk said that in 2020, signed deals went up by 300%, and the first half of 2021 grew 50% more on top of that. Its users include utilities like Skanska Energi and broadband company Ownit, and others like remote healthcare company Kry, businesses that take invoice and take monthly payments from their customers.

While there has been a lot of attention around how companies like Apple and Google are handling subscriptions and payments in apps, what Billogram focuses on is a different beast, and much more complex: it’s more integrated into the business providing services, and it may involve different services, and the fees can vary over every billing period. It’s for this reason that, in fact, even big companies in the realm of digital payments, like Stripe, which might even already have products that can help manage subscriptions on their platforms, partner with companies like Billogram to build the experiences to manage their more involved kinds of payment services.

I should point out here that Suijkerbuijk told me that Stripe recently became a partner of Billograms, which is very interesting… but he also added that a number of the big payments companies have talked to Billogram. He also confirmed that currently Stripe is not an investor in the company. “We have a very good relationship,” he said.

It’s not surprising to see Stripe and others wanting to more in the area of more complex, recurring billing services. Researchers estimate that the market size (revenues and services) for subscription and recurring billing will be close to $6 billion this year, with that number ballooning to well over $10 billion by 2025. And indeed, the effort to make a payment or any kind of transaction will continue to be a point of friction in the world of commerce, so any kinds of systems that bring technology to bear to make that easier and something that consumers or businesses will do without thinking about it, will be valuable, and will likely grow in dominance. (It’s why the more basic subscription services, such as Prime membership or a Netflix subscription, or a cloud storage account, are such winners.)

Within that very big pie, Suijkerbuijk noted that rather than the Apples and Googles of the world, the kinds of businesses that Billogram currently competes against are those that are addressing the same thornier end of the payments spectrum that Billogram is. These include a wide swathe of incumbent companies that do a lot of their business in areas like debt collection, and other specialists like Scaleworks-backed Chargify — which itself got a big investment injection earlier this year from Battery Ventures, which put $150 million into both it and another billing provider, SaaSOptics, in April.

The former group of competitors are not currently a threat to Billogram, he added.

“Debt collecting agencies are big on invoicing, but no one — not their customers, nor their customers’ customers — loves them, so they are great competitors to have,” Suijkerbuijk joked.

This also means that Billogram is not likely to move into debt collection itself as it continues to expand. Instead, he said, the focus will be on building out more tools to make the invoicing and payments experience better and less painful to customers. That will likely include more moves into customer service and generally improving the overall billing experience — something we have seen become a bigger area also during the pandemic, as companies realized that they needed to address non-payments in a different way from how their used to, given world events and the impact they were having on individuals.

“We are excited to partner with Jonas and the team at Billogram.” says Omri Benayoun, General Partner at Partech, in a statement. “Having spotted a gap in the market, they have quietly built the most advanced platform for large B2C enterprises looking to integrate billing, payment, and collection in one single solution. In our discussion with leading utilities, telecom, e-health, and all other clients across Europe, we realized how valuable Billogram was for them in order to engage with their end-users through a top-notch billing and payment experience. The outstanding commercial traction demonstrated by Billogram has further cemented our conviction, and we can’t wait to support the team in bringing their solution to many more customers in Europe and beyond!”

#apple, #battery-ventures, #billing, #billogram, #broadband, #business-software, #ceo, #e-health, #economy, #europe, #finance, #financial-technology, #finland, #france, #funding, #general-partner, #germany, #google, #ireland, #italy, #kry, #merchant-services, #money, #netflix, #norway, #online-payments, #partner, #spain, #stockholm, #stripe, #sweden, #web-applications

Biden says he has deal to lower Internet prices, but the details will matter

President Joe Biden speaking in front of a podium at a Mack Truck facility.

Enlarge / President Joe Biden speaks at Mack Truck Lehigh Valley Operations on July 28, 2021, in Macungie, Pennsylvania. (credit: Getty Images | Michael M. Santiago)

A bipartisan infrastructure deal will provide $65 billion for broadband deployment and require ISPs that receive funding “to offer a low-cost affordable plan,” the White House said today.

President Joe Biden pledged early in his term to lower Internet prices, and this appears to be the first tangible result—although it will only affect ISPs that take the new funding, and the White House didn’t release key details about the affordable Internet plans. A White House fact sheet on the $550 billion infrastructure deal with senators included two paragraphs summarizing the broadband portions:

[M]ore than 30 million Americans live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds—a particular problem in rural communities throughout the country. The deal’s $65 billion investment ensures every American has access to reliable high-speed Internet with a historic investment in broadband infrastructure deployment, just as the federal government made a historic effort to provide electricity to every American nearly one hundred years ago.

The bill will also help lower prices for Internet service by requiring funding recipients to offer a low-cost affordable plan, by creating price transparency and helping families comparison shop, and by boosting competition in areas where existing providers aren’t providing adequate service. It will also help close the digital divide by passing the Digital Equity Act, ending digital redlining, and creating a permanent program to help more low-income households access the Internet.

“Low-cost” definition not released yet

The announcement didn’t say what speeds or prices will have to be offered by government-funded ISPs in the required low-cost plans. It also didn’t say whether those low-cost plans would be available to all customers or only those who meet certain income requirements.

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#biden, #broadband, #policy

ISPs spent $235 million on lobbying and donations, “more than $320,000 a day”

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The biggest Internet service providers and their trade groups spent $234.7 million on lobbying and political donations during the most recent two-year congressional cycle, according to a report released yesterday. The ISPs and their trade groups lobbied against strict net neutrality rules and on various other telecom and broadband regulatory legislation, said the report written by advocacy group Common Cause.

Of the $234.7 million spent in 2019 and 2020, political contributions and expenditures accounted for $45.6 million. The rest of it went to lobbying expenditures.

Comcast led the way with $43 million in lobbying and political contributions and expenditures combined during the 2019-2020 cycle, the report said. The highest-spending ISPs after Comcast were AT&T with $36.4 million, Verizon with $24.8 million, Charter with $24.4 million, and T-Mobile with $21.5 million.

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#broadband, #lobbying, #policy

California’s ambitious fiber-Internet plan approved unanimously by legislature

Illustration of fiber-optic cables.

Enlarge / Illustration of fiber-optic cables. (credit: Getty Images | Tetra Images)

The California legislature unanimously approved a plan to build a statewide, open-access fiber network yesterday. The legislation was supported by Democrats and Republicans in votes of 78-0 in the California Assembly and 39-0 in the state Senate.

The statewide, open-access fiber lines will function as a “middle-mile” network that carries data from Internet backbone networks to connection points in cities and rural areas. A middle-mile network doesn’t extend all the way to residential properties, but “last-mile” ISPs can get access to it and focus on building infrastructure that connects the middle mile to homes.

California’s decision to make the middle-mile network open-access means it will provide “non-discriminatory access to eligible entities on a technology and competitively neutral basis, regardless of whether the entity is privately or publicly owned,” the bill text said. If all goes as planned, the network will make it easier for existing ISPs to expand and for new ISPs to get started, filling in gaps where there’s no modern access and boosting competition and speeds in other areas. Last-mile ISPs could use network technology other than fiber to connect to homes because of the provision allowing technology-neutral access.

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#broadband, #california, #fiber, #policy

How much do you pay your ISP? Consumer Reports wants to see your bill

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With broadband-industry lobby groups implausibly claiming that Internet providers have slashed their prices, Consumer Reports is on a mission to collect and analyze thousands of monthly Internet bills from real customers.

In an announcement today, Consumer Reports said it launched the Broadband Together initiative with 40 other groups to “analyze the cost, quality, and speeds that are being delivered to people in communities across the US and to better understand the factors that affect price and why consumers pay different rates for the same service.” At least one thing is certain before the analysis begins: the actual amount ISPs charge is a lot higher than their advertised prices because of various fees that get tacked on after customers select a plan.

Over 6,600 people have already participated. You can join at the project website, which says the process takes seven minutes. “To participate, consumers will need an Internet bill, an Internet connection so CR researchers can test their speeds, and answer a few questions about their broadband service,” Consumer Reports said. The group will analyze bills “to compare companies’ prices and service” and figure out “what consumers actually pay for broadband.”

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#biz-it, #broadband, #consumer-reports, #policy

FCC speed standard that Ajit Pai never updated is too slow, GAO report says

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The Federal Communications Commission broadband standard that was implemented under then-Chairman Tom Wheeler in 2015 and never updated by Ajit Pai is now “likely too slow,” according to a government report issued last week.

The Wheeler-led FCC in January 2015 updated the agency’s broadband standard from 4Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream to 25Mbps downloads/3Mbps uploads. The increase was opposed by broadband-industry lobbyists and Republicans, including Ajit Pai, who was then a commissioner and later served as FCC chairman throughout the Trump administration.

Pai never updated the 25Mbps/3Mbps standard in his four years as chair. In his last annual broadband-deployment report issued in January 2021, Pai concluded that “fixed services with speeds of 25/3Mbps continue to meet the statutory definition of advanced telecommunications capability.”

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#ajit-pai, #broadband, #fcc, #jessica-rosenworcel, #policy

Biden’s sweeping executive order takes on big tech’s ‘bad mergers,’ ISPs and more

The Biden administration just introduced a sweeping, ambitious plan to forcibly inject competition into some consolidated sectors of the American economy — the tech sector prominent among them — through executive action.

“Today President Biden is taking decisive action to reduce the trend of corporate consolidation, increase competition, and deliver concrete benefits to America’s consumers, workers, farmers, and small businesses,” a new White House fact sheet on the forthcoming order states.

The order, which Biden will sign Friday, initiates a comprehensive “whole-of-government” approach that loops in more then twelve different agencies at the federal level to regulate monopolies, protect consumers and curtail bad behavior from some of the world’s biggest corporations.

In the fact sheet, the White House lays out its plans to take matters to regulate big business into its own hands at the federal level. As far as tech is concerned, that comes largely through emboldening the FTC and the Justice Department — two federal agencies with antitrust enforcement powers.

Most notably for big tech, which is already bracing for regulatory existential threats, the White House explicitly asserts here that those agencies have legal cover to “challenge prior bad mergers that past Administrations did not previously challenge” — i.e. unwinding acquisitions that built a handful of tech companies into the behemoths they are today. The order calls on antitrust agencies to enforce antitrust laws “vigorously.”

Federal scrutiny will prioritize “dominant internet platforms, with particular attention to the acquisition of nascent competitors, serial mergers, the accumulation of data, competition by ‘free’ products, and the effect on user privacy.” Facebook, Google and Amazon are particularly on notice here, though Apple isn’t likely to escape federal attention either.

“Over the past ten years, the largest tech platforms have acquired hundreds of companies—including alleged ‘killer acquisitions’ meant to shut down a potential competitive threat,” the White House wrote in the fact sheet. “Too often, federal agencies have not blocked, conditioned, or, in some cases, meaningfully examined these acquisitions.”

The biggest tech companies have regularly defended their longstanding strategy of buying up the competition by arguing that because those acquisitions went through without friction at the time, they shouldn’t be viewed as illegal in hindsight. In no uncertain terms, the new executive order makes it clear that the Biden administration isn’t having any of it.

The White House also specifically singles out internet service providers for scrutiny, ordering the FCC to prioritize consumer choice and institute broadband “nutrition labels” that clearly state speed caps and hidden feeds. The FCC began working on the labels in the Obama administration but the work was scrapped after Trump took office.

The order also directly calls on the FCC to restore net neutrality rules, which were stripped in 2017 to the widespread horror of open internet advocates and most of the tech industry outside of the service providers that stood to benefit.

The White House will also tell the FTC to create new privacy rules meant to guard consumers against surveillance and the “accumulation of extraordinarily amounts of sensitive personal information,” which free services like Facebook, YouTube and others have leveraged to build their vast empires. The White House also taps the FTC to create rules that protect smaller businesses from being pre-empted by large platforms, which in many cases abuse their market dominance with a different sort of data-based surveillance to out-compete up-and-coming competitors.

Finally, the executive order encourages the FTC to put right to repair rules in place that would free consumers from constraints that discourage DIY and third-party repairs. A new White House Competition Council under the Director of the National Economic Council will coordinate the federal execution of the proposals laid out in the new order.

The antitrust effort from the executive branch mirrors parallel actions in the FTC and Congress. In the FTC, Biden has installed a fearsome antitrust crusader in Lina Khan, a young legal scholar and fierce Amazon critic who proposes a philosophical overhaul to the way the federal government defines monopolies. Khan now leads the FTC as its chair.

In Congress, a bipartisan flurry of bills intended to rein in the tech industry are slowly wending their way toward becoming law, though plenty of hurdles remain. Last month, the House Judiciary Committee debated the six bills, which were crafted separately to help them survive opposing lobbying pushes from the tech industry. These legislative efforts could modernize antitrust laws, which have failed to keep pace with the modern realities of giant, internet-based businesses.

“Competition policy needs new energy and approaches so that we can address America’s monopoly problem,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a prominent tech antitrust hawk in Congress, said of the executive order. “That means legislation to update our antitrust laws, but it also means reimagining what the federal government can do to promote competition under our current laws.”

Citing the acceleration of corporate consolidation in recent decades, the White House argues that a handful of large corporations dominates across industries, including healthcare, agriculture and tech and consumers, workers and smaller competitors pay the price for their outsized success. The administration will focus antitrust enforcement on those corners of the market as well as evaluating the labor market and worker protections on the whole.

“Inadequate competition holds back economic growth and innovation… Economists find that as competition declines, productivity growth slows, business investment and innovation decline, and income, wealth, and racial inequality widen,” the White House wrote.

 

#amazon, #america, #biden, #biden-administration, #big-tech, #broadband, #competition-law, #congress, #department-of-justice, #executive, #facebook, #federal-communications-commission, #federal-government, #federal-trade-commission, #google, #government, #healthcare, #internet-service-providers, #lina-khan, #president, #tc, #white-house, #youtube

SpaceX plans to use its Starlink internet on Starship orbital launch to demonstrate connection quality

SpaceX’s upcoming Starship orbital test flight could end up being a veritable smorgasbord of its technological capabilities, as the company has filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to request approval to fly Starlink terminals on the spacecraft in order to “demonstrate high data rate communications” between the new launch system and the ground throughout the course of the trip to space and back.

SpaceX plans to show that its network of Starlink low-Earth orbit satellites can provide “unprecedented volumes of telemetry and enable communications during atmospheric reentry” even during the parts of the launch where communications signals are typically lost due to the presence of “ionized plasma” in the atmosphere during the re-entry phase (via Michael Baylor on Twitter). If it works, it could provide better than ever live data for SpaceX during its test flight, which should help with the Starship and Super Heavy launch system’s development — and it could mean better, more spectacular views for those of us just watching from home via livestream, too.

Including Starlink as the communications method for telemetry and other communications during the launch is definitely a functional improvement for SpaceX if it works as described, but it’s even more of a flex for the company in terms of showing off Starlink’s capabilities. The FCC filing ones that the terminals to be installed on the spacecraft are basically just its existing consumer terminals with new exterior housings, so if it performs well that could attract the attention of more consumer broadband customers.

Plus, SpaceX is also talking a lot about the capabilities of Starlink as a system to replace older, more distant geostationary satellites networks to provide things like connectivity on airplanes, on ships and in other in other transportation modals. Showing that it offers solid performance during a rocket launch is definitely going to encourage partners in those areas.

The filing does specific that its license to operate Starlink on Starship begin on August 1, which means either it’s planned for a launch after the one SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company is hoping to fly sometime in July, or the date has already likely slipped to the following month.

#broadband, #satellite, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #starship, #tc

NY can’t force ISPs to offer $15 low-income broadband plans, judge rules

Man's hand holding stack of US currency with some bills flying away.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | PM Images)

On Friday, the broadband industry won a court order that prohibits New York from enforcing a state law that would require ISPs to sell $15-per-month broadband plans to low-income households.

Lobby groups for ISPs sued New York to block the law that was scheduled to take effect on June 15 and received a preliminary injunction today from US District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The state law is preempted by federal law, US District Judge Denis Hurley wrote in the order. While the case will continue, Hurley found that the industry is likely to succeed in its lawsuit.

The Affordable Broadband Act (ABA) would require ISPs to offer “all qualifying low-income households at least two Internet access plans: (i) download speeds of at least 25 megabits-per-second at no more than $15-per-month, or (ii) download speeds of at least 200 megabits-per-second at no more than $20-per-month,” the ruling noted. The low-income qualifications specified by the law cover about 7 million New Yorkers in 2.7 million households, over one-third of all households in the state. The law allows exceptions to the minimum-speed requirement “where such download speed is not reasonably practicable.”

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#broadband, #new-york, #policy

Charter charges more money for slower Internet on streets with no competition

A Charter Spectrum service truck on a snowy street.

Enlarge / A Charter Spectrum service truck in McKinney, Texas, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

It’s no surprise that cable companies charge lower prices for broadband when they face competition from fiber-to-the-home services. But an article yesterday by Stop the Cap provides a good example of how dramatically promotional prices for Charter’s Spectrum Internet service can vary from one street to the next.

In this example, Charter charges $20 more per month for slower speeds on the street where it faces no serious competition. When customers in two areas purchase the same speeds, the customer on the street without competition could have to pay $40 more per month and would have their promotional rates expire after only one year instead of two.

Stop the Cap said it examined promotional offers to new customers in the metro Rochester, New York, market, “where Spectrum faces token competition from Frontier’s slow speed DSL service” and more robust competition in limited areas from Greenlight Networks’ fiber service. Greenlight fiber is available in 23 percent of Rochester, while Charter cable is available to homes throughout the city, according to BroadbandNow. Greenlight prices start at $50 per month for 500Mbps.

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#biz-it, #broadband, #cable, #charter, #fiber, #policy, #spectrum

Biden cuts broadband plan from $100 billion to $65 billion to match GOP offer

President Joe Biden standing and speaking in front of microphones.

Enlarge / President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Thursday, May 13, 2021. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

President Biden has cut his broadband-deployment spending proposal from $100 billion to $65 billion, matching the lower amount proposed by Republicans. But Republicans still object to Biden’s overall infrastructure spending plan and have consistently opposed the municipal broadband networks that Biden wants to prioritize in government-funded projects.

Biden “agreed to reduce the funding request for broadband to match the Republican offer and to reduce the proposed investment in roads, bridges, and major projects to come closer to the number proposed by the senators. This is all in the spirit of finding common ground,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday during a media briefing.

Biden made the $100 billion broadband proposal on March 31 as part of his larger American Jobs Plan, saying the multi-year funding would pay for “‘future-proof’ broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas so that we finally reach 100 percent high-speed broadband coverage.”

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#biden, #broadband, #policy, #republicans

ISPs claim broadband prices aren’t too high—Biden admin isn’t buying it

Illustration of Internet data and dollar signs

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Guirong Hao)

Biden administration officials are not convinced by the broadband industry’s claims that Internet prices aren’t too high, according to a report today by Axios.

The White House announced on March 31 that President Biden “is committed to working with Congress to find a solution to reduce Internet prices for all Americans.” Though Biden hasn’t revealed exactly how he intends to reduce prices, the announcement set off a flurry of lobbying by trade groups representing ISPs to convince Biden and the public that Americans are not paying too much for Internet access. ISPs even claim that prices have dropped, despite government data showing that the price Americans pay has risen four times faster than inflation.

A Biden official told Axios that the ISPs have not made a convincing case. “A senior administration official told Axios the bulk of the evidence shows prices have gone up recently and prices are higher than they are for comparable plans in Europe,” Axios wrote. “Biden noted the high cost of Internet service in March, and the official told Axios, ‘I don’t think we’ve seen anything since he made those comments to make us feel like we were wrong about that. We’re still committed to taking some bold action to make sure that we bring those prices down for folks.'”

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#biden, #broadband, #isps, #policy, #rate-regulation

Google Cloud teams up with SpaceX’s Starlink for enterprise connectivity at network’s edge

SpaceX’s bourgeoning Starlink satellite-based broadband internet service just got a big boost from a significant new partner: Google Cloud. Thanks to a new partnership between the two, SpaceX will now be locating Starlink ground stations right within Google’s existing data centers, providing the Starlink network with direct access to ground-based network infrastructure to help facilitate network connections for customers who are on the edges of the footprint of existing network access.

Starlink’s entire aim is to provide reliable, broadband-quality connections to areas that have typically be hard or impossible to reach with legacy ground-based network infrastructure, including cellular networks. The tie-up with Google means that not only will business and public sector customers taking advantage of that new network reach have access to internet connections, but also to cloud-based infrastructure and applications, including AI and machine learning capabilities, analytics and more.

This should not only bolster Starlink’s reliability in terms of its consumer clients, but also provide key capabilities for serving enterprise customers — another key target demographic for the growing Starlink business, though much of the public focus thus far for Starlink’s roll-out has been on residential access across its expanding beta.

Google and Starlink expect to begin to become available to enterprise customers soon — sometime pin the “second half of 2021” according to a press release issued by the companies.

SpaceX has been very aggressive in building out the Starlink network in the past few months, launching 480 in just around there months. All that in-space infrastructure build out could well have been pre-amble to this collaboration and enterprise-focused service launch, in addition to helping SpaceX expand Starlink consumer service quality and availability.

#artificial-intelligence, #broadband, #google, #google-cloud, #internet-access, #machine-learning, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc, #telecommunications

FCC begins rollout of $10B in connectivity aid through emergency funds

After months of deliberations, the FCC is ready to start helping people cover the cost of broadband and connected devices through two emergency funds amounting to more than $10 billion. If your household has trouble paying for internet access or shares a single computer, or your wallet has just had a rough year, you probably qualify for help.

The two distinct programs are the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program and the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. They sound similar, and in a general sense they do similar things, but they’re distinct programs intended to help close the connectivity gap in America, especially for those most adversely affected by the pandemic.

The first, which we’ll just call the Connectivity Fund, is not something you as an ordinary consumer necessarily need to worry about, but your household may still benefit from it. It’s intended, as FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has explained, to close the “homework gap” specifically, meaning kids who lack the ability to take part in online schoolwork because they lack a suitable device or connection.

The fund will work with schools and libraries to cover the cost of things like portable wi-fi hot spots, tablets, laptops, or other connectivity-related items. Basically, those institutions will do their own work to identify the kids and families that need help, provide what they think is needed, and then send the bill to the FCC.

As a parent, you may have to respond to a survey or talk to your kid’s teacher about what would help most, but you probably won’t have to do much in the way of paperwork. That said, you might ask an administrator whether they’re aware of and participating in the program — it goes through the FCC’s E-rate program, which might be a more familiar term to them.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit is the one that ordinary users will need to do a little legwork to take advantage of. This $3B fund is a one-time thing, available only while the money lasts, and the FCC in a call with media wasn’t really able to estimate exactly how long that is likely to be, since it depends on how many people sign up in the first place.

The program subsidizes $50 (or $75 in tribal lands) in broadband costs and provides a one-time $100 discount for hardware, provided you meet the eligibility requirements. The short version is if you qualify for any other federal assistance, like Pell grants, free and reduced-price lunch, Medicaid, etc, you almost certainly qualify here. And if you earn less than $99K and “experienced a substantial loss of income” in the last year, you also qualify — which covers a whole lot more people.

You can apply online or via mail starting tomorrow, May 12, but the easiest thing to do might be to check if your current broadband provider is participating and just ask them to enroll you in the program. They may have their own form you have to fill out, but the result is $50 off your internet for as long as there’s money in the FCC’s $3B bag.

When I asked an FCC representative whether the two programs could complement or interfere with one another in a single household, they said there will probably be some limitations but that specifics will come later. Basically there are provisions to prevent a single internet connection or device from receiving discounts from both programs, but because they’re administered differently you shouldn’t have to worry about that. Just ask the school what they’ve got for you and sign up for the broadband benefit, and you should be good. (Likewise for Lifeline and other benefits — should be fine.)

Incidentally, the two measures were both passed unanimously by the FCC, and the comments of the individual commissioners show that they are pleased to get this out the door — this really is a $10B giveaway to those who need it most, and though it took some time to achieve, it should be helpful to quite a lot of people.

#broadband, #fcc, #government

SpaceX launches and lands a Falcon 9 rocket booster a record 10th time

SpaceX has launched another 60 Starlink satellites — making 180 delivered to orbit in under two weeks — but the launch early Sunday morning was more notable because it set a new, key record for Falcon 9 rocket reusability. This marked the 10th flight of the first-stage rocket booster used for the launch, which sets a record for re-use for SpaceX as the rocket booster with the most successful mission under its belt.

The launch took place at 2:42 AM EDT, flying from Cape Canaveral in Florida. SpaceX also successfully returned the booster to its drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean for a tenth successful landing for the rocket, too, making it a record-setter in that regard as well, and setting up the possibility that it could fly yet again. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said it could be “possible” for a Falcon 9 booster to fly “100+” times with servicing and component replacement.

This Falcon 9 has previously flown on missions including the original uncrewed demonstration mission of Crew Dragon, SpaceX’s astronaut spacecraft, and seven prior Starlink launches. SpaceX has shown just how reusable its rockets are with its aggressive Starlink launch schedule, most of which have employed rocket boosters that have flown a number of missions before, including other launches for the broadband internet megaconstellation.

Since SpaceX is both launch provider and customer on Starlink, it’s actually crucial for the company to realize as many cost savings as possible during its frequent flights building the network of low Earth orbit satellites. Re-use of the boosters is a key ingredient, and one where the cost savings definitely accrue over time. Musk has previously said that the economics are such that for its external customer flights, it’s at about “even” on the second use of a booster, and “ahead” in terms of costs by the third. During its Starlink launch program, SpaceX has repeatedly set and broken its own reusability records, indicating a key means of keeping the costs of building out its in-space satellite infrastructure is using flight-proven boosters as much as possible.

This is the 27th Starlink launch thus far, and SpaceX has another planned just six days from now on May 15, with at least one more likely in the works for later this month after that. The company hopes to have its broadband network built out to the point where it has global reach by the end of this year.

#broadband, #elon-musk, #falcon, #falcon-9, #outer-space, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

SpaceX launches 60 more Starlink satellites, claims over 500,000 service pre-orders so far

SpaceX has launched 60 more of its Starlink internet broadband satellites — on ‘Star Wars Day,’ no less, and only five days after it launched the last batch. The company has now delivered 420 Starlink satellites since the beginning of March, a sum that SpaceX CEO and founder must not be aware of because he definitely would’ve tweeted about it by now if he was.

This launch took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 3:01 PM ET (12:01 PM PT), and used a re-used Falcon 9 booster that had flown 8 times previously. That booster also landed back on SpaceX’s floating drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, tying the record for SpaceX’s reusable flight program in terms of flying resumed boosters, which it just set in March. This is the company’s 115th Falcon 9 launch so far.

SpaceX also shared updated figures around its Starlink consumer hardware, which is used to transmit and receive signal from the constellation for broadband service. The company has received “over half a million” pre-order reservations for its service so far, which includes advance deposits on the hardware.

That strong demand helps explain why there appears to be such a significant backlog in terms of fulfilling orders for Starlink. Customers looking to user the service can sign up via SpaceX’s website, and place a pre-order for the kit, which induces the Starlink receiver, a router, power supplies and mounting hardware for your home.

The service is available to beta customers in six countries thus far, including Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and the U.S. and Canada, but the goal is to continue to expand coverage to achieve near-global reach by the end of 2021 in terms of service availability, with a number of additional launches planned throughout the rest of the year.

#broadband, #falcon-9, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

ISPs sue New York to block law requiring $15 broadband for poor people

A pen and book resting atop a paper copy of a lawsuit.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | eccolo74)

Internet service providers today sued New York to block a state law that requires ISPs to sell $15-per-month broadband plans to low-income households.

The lawsuit was filed by lobby groups including USTelecom and CTIA-The Wireless Association, both of which count Verizon and AT&T among their members. Lobby groups for many other ISPs also joined the lawsuit, with plaintiffs including NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association, the Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association, and the New York State Telecommunications Association. The biggest cable lobby group, NCTA, did not join the lawsuit, but a cable lobby group representing small providers—America’s Communications Association—is one of the plaintiffs suing New York.

New York enacted its cheap-broadband law two weeks ago and called it a “first-in-the-nation requirement for affordable Internet for qualifying low-income families.”

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#broadband, #new-york, #policy

SpaceX launches 60 more Starlink satellites

SpaceX has launched another batch of Starlink satellites, adding 60 more to the constellation on orbit. This is the 24th Starlink launch in total, and means SpaceX has now sent up over 1,500 Starlink spacecraft, with around 1,438 of those still in operation. This is the first Starlink launch since April 7 — which, surprisingly, is the biggest gap between these launches in quite a while.

This year, SpaceX’s overall launch calendar has been dominated by Starlink launches, as the company seeks to expand the availability, quality and coverage of its low Earth orbit broadband internet network. SpaceX also opened up availability of Starlink service this year, and now seems to be mostly supply-constrained on the consumer receiver terminal side, rather than necessarily on network capacity or regional ability.

Regarding that few week gap in the Starlink launch pace, it’s not like SpaceX was slacking in the meantime; the launcher sent up its second crew of astronauts destined for the International Space Station in a flight just last week. Plus, it has two three additional Starlink launches tentatively scheduled to happen in May.

This latest launch took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 11:44 PM EDT (8:44 PM PDT) on Wednesday, and it used a flight-proven Falcon 9 first stage booster, which was used on six prior missions, including four Starlink launches.

#aerospace, #broadband, #falcon-9, #florida, #international-space-station, #outer-space, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

Reform the US low-income broadband program by rebuilding Lifeline

“If you build it, they will come” is a mantra that’s been repeated for more than three decades to embolden action. The line from “Field of Dreams” is a powerful saying, but I might add one word: “If you build it well, they will come.”

America’s Lifeline program, a monthly subsidy designed to help low-income families afford critical communications services, was created with the best intentions. The original goal was to achieve universal telephone service, but it has fallen far short of achieving its potential as the Federal Communications Commission has attempted to convert it to a broadband-centric program.

The FCC’s Universal Service Administrative Company estimates that only 26% of the families that are eligible for Lifeline currently participate in the program. That means that nearly three out of four low-income consumers are missing out on a benefit for which they qualify. But that doesn’t mean the program should be abandoned, as the Biden administration’s newly released infrastructure plan suggests.

Now is the right opportunity to complete the transformation of Lifeline to broadband and expand its utilization by increasing the benefit to a level commensurate with the broadband marketplace and making the benefit directly available to end users.

Rather, now is the right opportunity to complete the transformation of Lifeline to broadband and expand its utilization by increasing the benefit to a level commensurate with the broadband marketplace and making the benefit directly available to end users. Instead, the White House fact sheet on the plan recommends price controls for internet access services with a phaseout of subsidies for low-income subscribers. That is a flawed policy prescription.

If maintaining America’s global competitiveness, building broadband infrastructure in high-cost rural areas, and maintaining the nation’s rapid deployment of 5G wireless services are national goals, the government should not set prices for internet access.

Forcing artificially low prices in the quest for broadband affordability would leave internet service providers with insufficient revenues to continue to meet the nation’s communications infrastructure needs with robust innovation and investment.

Instead, targeted changes to the Lifeline program could dramatically increase its participation rate, helping to realize the goal of connecting Americans most in need with the phone and broadband services that in today’s world have become essential to employment, education, healthcare and access to government resources.

To start, Lifeline program participation should be made much easier. Today, individuals seeking the benefit must go through a process of self-enrollment. Implementing “coordinated enrollment” — through which individuals would automatically be enrolled in Lifeline when they qualify for certain other government assistance benefits, including SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) and Medicaid — would help to address the severe program underutilization.

Because multiple government programs serve the same constituency, a single qualification process for enrollment in all applicable programs would generate government efficiencies and reach Americans who are missing out.

Speaking before the American Enterprise Institute back in 2014, former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said, “In most states, to enroll in federal benefit programs administered by state agencies, consumers already must gather their income-related documentation, and for some programs, go through a face-to-face interview. Allowing customers to enroll in Lifeline at the same time as they apply for other government benefits would provide a better experience for consumers and streamline our efforts.”

Second, the use of the Lifeline benefit can be made far simpler for consumers if the subsidy is provided directly to them via an electronic Lifeline benefit card account — like the SNAP program’s electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card. Not only would a Lifeline benefit card make participation in the program more convenient, but low-income

Americans would then be able to shop among the various providers and select the carrier and the precise service(s) that best suits their needs. The flexibility of greater consumer choice would be an encouragement for more program sign-ups.

And, the current Lifeline subsidy amount — $9.25 per month — isn’t enough to pay for a broadband subscription. For the subsidy to be truly meaningful, an increase in the monthly benefit is needed. Last December, Congress passed the temporary Emergency Broadband Benefit to provide low-income Americans up to a $50 per month discount ($75 per month on tribal lands) to offset the cost of broadband connectivity during the pandemic. After the emergency benefit runs out, a monthly benefit adequate to defray the cost of a broadband subscription will be needed.

In order to support more than a $9.25 monthly benefit, the funding source for the Lifeline program must also be reimagined. Currently, the program relies on the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, which is financed through a “tax” on traditional long-distance and international telephone services.

As greater use is made of the web for voice communications, coupled with less use of traditional telephones, the tax rate has increased to compensate for the shrinking revenues associated with landline phone services. A decade ago, the tax, known as the “contribution factor,” was 15.5%, but it’s now more than double that at an unsustainable 33.4%. Without changes, the problem will only worsen.

It’s easy to see that the financing of a broadband benefit should no longer be tied to a dying technology. Instead, funding for the Lifeline program could come from a “tax” shared across the entire internet ecosystem, including the edge providers that depend on broadband to reach their customers, or from direct congressional appropriations for the Lifeline program.

These reforms are realistic and straightforward. Rather than burn the program down, it’s time to rebuild Lifeline to ensure that it fulfills its original intention and reaches America’s neediest.

#biden-administration, #broadband, #column, #digital-divide, #federal-communications-commission, #government, #internet-access, #internet-service-providers, #opinion, #policy

Striking Charter workers build ISP where “profits are returned to users”

An antenna on a rooftop in the Bronx, with a view of the city during daytime.

Enlarge / Rooftop antenna at Immaculate Conception School in the Bronx. (credit: People’s Choice Communications)

Charter Communications employees who have been on strike since 2017 are building an Internet service provider in New York City called “People’s Choice.”

“People’s Choice Communications is an employee-owned social enterprise launched by members of IBEW Local #3 to bridge the digital divide and help our neighbors get connected to the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the ISP’s website says. “We are the workers who built a large part of New York City’s Internet infrastructure in the first place. We built out [Charter] Spectrum’s cable system, until in 2017, the company pushed us out on strike by taking away our healthcare, retirement, and other benefits. It’s now the longest strike in US history.”

So far, People’s Choice says it has completed rooftop antenna installations at two schools in the Bronx and installed “hardline connections to wireless access points connecting 121 units” at housing for survivors of domestic violence who have disabilities.

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#broadband, #charter, #policy, #spectrum

AT&T/Verizon workers’ union urges states to regulate ISPs as utilities

A US map with lines representing broadband networks.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | jangeltun)

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) union is lobbying state governments to regulate Internet service providers as utilities.

The CWA, which represents more than 150,000 workers at AT&T and over 30,000 at Verizon, announced on Monday a “multi-state effort to pass state legislation that would establish public utility commission oversight of broadband in public safety, network resiliency and consumer protection.”

“Legislation has already been introduced in California, Colorado and New York, and CWA is in active conversations with policymakers in state houses across the country about its model bill, the Broadband Resiliency, Public Safety and Quality Act,” the union said. In addition to broadband regulation, the model bill calls for regulation of the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) home phone services offered by cable companies and other ISPs, which have replaced the old copper-wire landlines for many consumers.

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#att, #broadband, #cwa, #policy, #verizon

SpaceX launches 60 more Starlink satellites, now at 300 launched in just over one month

SpaceX has launched another batch of Starlink satellites, keeping up its rapid pace of launches for the broadband constellation it’s deploying in low Earth orbit. This now makes 300 Starlink satellites launched since March 4, with 60 on each of five flights between then and now.

The most recent launch before this one happened on March 24, with prior flights on March 14, March 11 and March 4 , respectively. That pace is intentionally fast, since SpaceX has said it aims to launch a total of 1,500 Starlink satellites over the course of this calendar year. Before that especially busy month, SpaceX also flew four other Starlink missions, including a shared ride on SpaceX’s first dedicated rideshare mission that also carried satellites for other customers.

In total, SpaceX has now launched 1,443 satellites for its Starlink constellation. That doesn’t reflect the total number of satellites on orbit, however, as a handful of those earlier satellites have been deorbited as planned. In total, the eventual planned sizer fo the constellation is expected to include up to 42,000 spacecraft based on current FCC frequency spectrum filings.

SpaceX recently signed a new agreement with NASA that outlines how the two organizations will avoid close approach or collision events between their respective spacecraft. NASA has measures it requires all launchers to follow in order to avoid these kinds of incidents, but the scale and frequency of SpaceX’s Starlink missions necessitated an additional, more extensive agreement.

This launch also included a landing of the Falcon 9 booster used, its seventh so far. The booster touched down as intended on SpaceX’s floating landing pad in the Atlantic Ocean, and will be refurbished for another potential reuse. SpaceX is also going to be looking to recover its fairing halves at sea, which are the two cargo covering shields that encase the satellites during take-off. The company actually just decommissioned two ships it had used to try to catch these out of mid-air as they fell slowed by parachutes, but it’s still looking to retrieve them from the ocean after splashdown for re-use.

Image Credits: SpaceX

#aerospace, #broadband, #federal-communications-commission, #outer-space, #satellite, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

Cable lobby slams Biden broadband plan, says everything is just fine already

Cable lobbyist Michael Powell speaking in front of a podium.

Enlarge / Cable lobbyist Michael Powell speaks at a conference in September 2015. (credit: Getty Images | Larry Busacca )

President Biden’s plan to expand broadband access and lower prices is, predictably, facing bitter opposition from cable companies that want to maintain the status quo.

NCTA–The Internet & Television Association, which represents Comcast, Charter, Cox, and other cable companies, argued that Biden’s plan is “a serious wrong turn.” NCTA is particularly mad that Biden wants to expand municipal broadband networks that could fill gaps where there’s no high-speed broadband from private ISPs and lower prices by providing competition to cable companies that usually dominate their regional territories.

“The White House has elected to go big on broadband infrastructure, but it risks taking a serious wrong turn in discarding decades of successful policy by suggesting that the government is better suited than private-sector technologists to build and operate the Internet,” NCTA CEO Michael Powell wrote in a statement.

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#biden, #broadband, #cable-lobby, #policy

Biden broadband plan will be hated by big ISPs, welcomed by Internet users

President Joe Biden speaking into a microphone and gesturing with his hands.

Enlarge / President Joe Biden speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, on Monday, March 29, 2021. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

President Biden’s plan to connect all Americans with high-speed broadband includes proposals to boost competition, build more publicly owned networks, lower prices, and prioritize “future-proof” networks instead of ones that would quickly become outdated. In other words, the plan includes some of the broadband industry’s least-favorite ideas and is sure to meet fierce resistance from cable and telecom lobby groups and Republicans.

Biden’s $100 billion broadband proposal is part of the American Jobs Plan described by the White House in a fact sheet released today. The broadband details released so far are a bit vague, and the plan could be changed in Congress, but there’s a lot to like for Internet users.

“The president believes we can bring affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to every American through a historic investment of $100 billion,” the fact sheet said. The $100 billion in broadband funding would be spread out over a number of years, as the entire jobs plan is slated to “invest about $2 trillion this decade.” (We published another story today on how the Biden plan would also eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.)

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#biden, #broadband, #policy

Startups have about $1 trillion worth of reasons to love the Biden infrastructure plan

The sweeping infrastructure package put forward today by President Joe Biden comes with a price tag of roughly $2 trillion (and hefty tax hikes) but gives startups and the broader tech industry about $1 trillion worth of reasons to support it.

Tech companies have spent the past decade or more developing innovations that can be applied to old-world industries like agriculture, construction, energy, education, manufacturing and transportation and logistics. These are industries where structural impediments to technology adoption have only recently been broken down by the advent of incredibly powerful mobile devices.

Now, these industries are at the heart of the President’s plan to build back better, and the hundreds of billions of dollars that are earmarked to make America great again will, either directly or indirectly, be a huge boost to a number of startups and large tech companies whose hardware and software services will enable much of the work the Biden administration wants done.

“The climate-oriented investment in Biden’s new plan would be roughly ten times what came through ARRA,” wrote Shayle Kann, a partner with the investment firm, Energy Impact Partners. “It would present a huge opportunity for a variety of climate tech sectors, ranging from clean electricity to carbon management to vehicle electrification.”

Much of this will look and feel like a Green New Deal, but sold under a package of infrastructure modernization and service upgrades that the country desperately needs.  Indeed, it’s hard to invest in infrastructure without supporting the kind of energy efficiency and renewable development plans that are at the core of the Green New Deal, since efficiency upgrades are just a part of the new way of building and making things.

Over $700 billion of the proposed budget will go to improving resiliency against natural disasters; upgrading critical water, power, and internet infrastructure; and rehabilitating and improving public housing, federal buildings, and aging commercial and residential real estate.

Additionally there’s another roughly $400 billion in spending earmarked for boosting domestic manufacturing of critical components like semiconductors; protecting against future pandemics; and creating regional innovation hubs to promote venture capital investment and startup development intended to “support the growth of entrepreneurship in communities of color and underserved communities.”

Climate resiliency 

Given the steady drumbeat of climate disasters that hit the U.S. over the course of 2020 (and their combined estimated price tag of nearly $100 billion), it’s not surprising that the Biden plan begins with a focus on resiliency.

The first big outlay of cash outlined in the Biden plan would call for $50 billion in financing to improve, protect and invest in underserved communities most at risk from climate disasters through programs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and new initiatives from the Department of Transportation. Most relevant to startups is the push to fund initiatives and technologies that can help prevent or protect against extreme wildfires; rising sea levels and hurricanes; new agriculture resource management; and “climate-smart” technologies.

As with most of Biden’s big infrastructure initiatives, there are startups tackling these issues. Companies like Cornea, Emergency Reporting, Zonehaven are trying to solve different facets of the fire problem; while flood prediction and weather monitoring startups are floating up their services too. Big data analytics, monitoring and sensing tools, and robotics are also becoming fixtures on the farm. For the President’s water efficiency and recycling programs, companies like Epic CleanTec, which has developed wastewater recycling technologies for residential and commercial buildings.

Fables of the reconstruction

Energy efficiency and building upgrades represent by far the biggest chunk of the Biden infrastructure package — totaling a whopping $400 billion of the spending package and all devoted to upgrading homes, offices, schools, veteran’s hospitals and federal buildings.

It gives extra credence to the thesis behind new climate-focused funds from Greensoil Proptech Ventures and Fifth Wall Ventures, which is raising a $200 million investment vehicle to focus on energy efficiency and climate tech solutions.

As Fifth Wall’s newest partner Greg Smithies noted last year, there’s a massive opportunity in building retrofits and startup technologies to improve efficiency.

“What excites me about this space is that there’s so much low-hanging fruit. And there’s $260 trillion worth of buildings,” Smithies said last year. “The vast majority of those are nowhere up to modern codes. We’re going to have a much bigger opportunity by focusing on some not-so-sexy stuff.”

Decarbonizing real estate can also make a huge difference in the fight against global climate change in addition to the its ability to improve quality of life and happiness for residents. “Real estate consumes 40% of all energy. The global economy happens indoors,” said Fifth Wall co-founder Brendan Wallace, in a statement. “Real estate will be the biggest spender on climate tech for no other reason than its contribution to the carbon problem.”

The Biden plan calls on Congress to enact new grant programs that award flexible funding to jurisdictions that take concrete steps to eliminate barriers to produce affordable housing. Part of that will include $40 billion to improve the infrastructure of the public housing in America.

It’s a project that startups like BlocPower are already deeply involved in supporting.

“Get the superhero masks and capes out. The Biden Harris Climate announcement is literally a plan to save the American economy and save the planet. This is Avengers Endgame in real life. We can’t undo the last five years… but we can make smart, massive investments in the climate infrastructure of the future,” wrote Donnel Baird, the chief executive and founder of BlocPower. “Committing to electrify 2 million American buildings, moving them entirely off of fossil fuels is exactly that — an investment in America leading theway towards creating a new industry creating American jobs that cannot be outsourced, and beginning to reduce the 30% of greenhouse gas emissiosn that come from buildings.”

As part of the package that directly impacts startups, there’s a proposal for a $27 billion Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator to mobilize private investment, according to the White House. The focus will be on distributed energy resources, retrofits of residential, commercial and municipal buildings; and clean transportation. A focus there will be on disadvantaged communities that haven’t had access to clean energy investments.

Financing the future startup nation

“From the invention of the semiconductor to the creation of the Internet, new engines of economic growth have emerged due to public investments that support research, commercialization, and strong supply chains,” the White House wrote. “President Biden is calling on Congress to make smart investments in research and development, manufacturing and regional economic development, and in workforce development to give our workers and companies the tools and training they need to compete on the global stage.”

To enable that, Biden is proposing another $480 billion in spending to boost research and development — including $50 billion for the National Science Foundation to focus on semiconductors and advanced communications technologies, energ technologies and biotechnology. Another $30 billion is designed to be targeted toward rural development; and finally the $40 billion in upgrading research infrastructure.

There’s also an initiative to create ARPA-C, a climate focused Advanced Research Projects Agency modeled on the DARPA program that gave birth to the Internet. There’s $20 billion heading toward funding climate-focused research and demonstration projects for energy storage, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, advanced nuclear and rare earth  element separations, floating off shore wind, biofuel/bioproducts, quantum computing and electric vehicles.

The bulk of Biden’s efforts to pour money into manufacturing represents another $300 billion in potential government funding. That’s $30 billion tickets for biopreparedness and pandemic preparedness; another $50 billion in semiconductor manufacturing and research; $46 billion for federal buying power for new advanced nuclear reactors and fuel, cars, ports, pumps and clean materials.

Included in all of this is an emphasis on developing economies fairly and equally across the country — that means $20 billion in regional innovation hubs and a Community Revitalization Fund, which is designed to support innovative, community-led redevelopment efforts and $52 billion in investing in domestic manufacturers — promoting rural manufacturing and clean energy.

Finally for startups there’s a $31 billion available for programs that give small businesses access to credit, venture capital, and R&D dollars. Specifically, the proposal calls for funding for community-based small business incubators and innovation hubs to support growth in communities of color and underserved communites.

Water and power infrastructure 

America’s C- grade infrastructure has problems extending across the length and breadth of the country. It encompasses everything from crumbling roads and bridges to a lack of clean drinking water, failing sewage systems, inadequate recycling facilities, and increasing demands on power generation, transmission and distribution assets that the nation’s electricity grid is unable to meet.

“Across the country, pipes and treatment plants are aging and polluted drinking water is endangering public health. An estimated six to ten million homes still receive drinking water through lead pipes and service lines,” the White House wrote in a statement.

To address this issue, Biden’s calling for an infusion of $45 billion into the Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act grants. While that kind of rip and replace project may not directly impact startups, another $66 billion earmarked for upgrades to drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems and monitoring and managing the presence of contaminants in water will be a huge boon for the vast array of water sensing and filtration startups that have flooded the market in the past decade or more (there’s even an entire incubator dedicated to just water technologies).

The sad fact is that water infrastructure in America has largely failed to keep up in large swaths of the country, necessitating this kind of massive capital infusion.

And what’s true for water is also true increasingly true for power. Outages cost the U.S. economy upwards of $70 billion per year, according to the White House. So when analysts compare those economic losses to a potential $100 billion outlay, the math should be clear. For startups that math equals dollar signs.

Calls to build a more resilient transmission system should be music to the ears of companies like Veir, which is developing a novel technology for improving capacity on transmission lines (a project that the Biden administration explicitly calls out in its plan).

The Biden plan also includes more than money, calling for the creation of a new Grid Deployment Authority within the Department of Energy to better leverage rights-of-way along roads and railways and will support financing tools to develop new high-voltage transmission lines, the White House said.

The administration doesn’t stop there. Energy storage and renewable technologies are going to get a boost through a clutch of tax credits designed to accelerate their deployment. That includes a ten-year extension and phase down of direct-pay investment tax credits and production tax credits. The plan aslo calls for clean energy block grants and calls for the government to purchase nothing but renewable energy all day for federal buildings.

Complimenting this push for clean power and storage will be a surge in funding for waste remediation and cleanup, which is getting a $21 billion boost under Biden.

Companies like Renewell Energy, or various non-profits that are trying to plug abandoned oil wells, can play a role here. There’s also the potential to recover other mineral deposits or reuse the wastewater that comes from these wells. And here, too, investors can find early stage businesses looking for an angle. Part of the money frm the Biden plan will aim to redevelop brownfields and turn them into more sustainable businesses.

That’s where some of the indoor agriculture companies, like Plenty, Bowery Farms, AppHarvest could find additional pots of money to turn unused factory and warehouse space into working farms. Idled factories could also be transformed into hubs for energy storage and community based power generation and distribution facilities, given their position on the grid.

“President Biden’s plan also will spur targeted sustainable, economic development efforts through the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER grant program, Department of Energy retooling grants for idled factories (through the Section 132 program), and dedicated funding to support community-driven environmental justice efforts – such as capacity and project grants to address legacy pollution and the cumulative impacts experienced by frontline and fenceline communities,” the White House wrote.

Key to these redevelopment efforts will be the establishment of pioneer facilities that demonstrate carbon capture retrofits for large steel, cement, and chemical production facilities. But if the Biden Administration wanted to, its departments could go a step further to support lower emission manufacturing technologies like the kind companies including Heliogen, which is using solar power to generate energy for a massive mining operation, or Boston Metal, which is partnering with BMW on developing a lower emission manufacturing process for steel production.

Critical to ensuring that this money gets spent is a $25 billion commitment to finance pre-development activities, that could help smaller project developers, as Rob Day writes in Forbes.

“As I’ve written about elsewhere, local project developers are key to getting sustainability projects built where they will actually do the most good — in the communities hit hardest by both local pollution and climate change impacts. These smaller project developers have lots of expenses they must pay just to get to the point where private-sector infrastructure construction investments can come in,” Day wrote. “Everyone in sustainability policy talks about supporting entrepreneurs, but in reality much of the support is aimed at technology innovators and not these smaller project developers who would be the ones to actually roll out those technology innovations. Infrastructure investors are typically much more reticent to provide capital before projects are construction-ready.”

Building a better Internet

“Broadband internet is the new electricity. It is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, health care, and to stay connected,” the White House wrote. “Yet, by one definition, more than 30 million Americans live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds. Americans in rural areas and on tribal lands particularly lack adequate access. And, in part because the United States has some of the highest broadband prices among OECD countries, millions of Americans can’t use broadband internet even if the infrastructure exists where they live.”

The $100 billion that the Biden Administration is earmarking for broadband infrastructure includes goals to meet 100 percent high-speed broadband coverage and prioritizes support for networks owned, operated, or faffiliated with local governments, non-profits and cooperatives.

Attendant with the new cash is a shift in regulatory policy that would open up opportunities for municipally-owned or affiliated providers and rural electric co-ops from competing with prive providers and requiring internet providers to be more transparent about their pricing. This increased competition is good for hardware vendors and ultimately could create new businesses for entrepreneurs who want to become ISPs of their own.

Wander is one-such service providing high speed wireless internet in Los Angeles.

“Americans pay too much for the internet – much more than people in many other countries – and the President is committed to working with Congress to find a solution to reduce internet prices for all Americans, increase adoption in both rural and urban areas, hold providers accountable, and save taxpayer money,” the White House wrote.

 

#agriculture, #america, #articles, #biden-administration, #biotechnology, #blocpower, #brendan-wallace, #broadband, #co-founder, #congress, #construction, #cornea, #department-of-transportation, #education, #electricity, #energy, #energy-impact-partners, #fifth-wall-ventures, #forbes, #greg-smithies, #infrastructure, #joe-biden, #kamala-harris, #los-angeles, #manufacturing, #mobile-devices, #national-science-foundation, #oecd, #plenty, #president, #quantum-computing, #real-estate, #semiconductor, #semiconductors, #steel, #supply-chains, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital, #venture-capital-investment, #white-house

SpaceX launches 60 more Starlink satellites, making 240 launched this month alone

SpaceX has added yet more Starlink satellites to its existing constellation on orbit, with a successful delivery of 60 spacecraft this morning from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The mission used a Falcon 9 with a flight-prove booster that served on five previous launches, and a cargo fairing cover made up of two re-used halves from past flights.

This is the fourth Starlink launch in under a month, with prior batches of 60 sent up on March 14, March 11 and March 4, respectively. In total, that means it’s sent up 240 satellites in about three weeks, which is actually around on par with the number satellites than the second-largest commercial constellation operator, Planet, has in space in total.

The stated goal for SpaceX is to have launched 1,500 Starlink satellites in 2020, and given its progress, it looks on track to make that target at the current launch pace. Starlink should eventually grow to include as many as 10,000 or more active satellites in low-Earth orbit, but the near-term goal is to continue expanding geographic coverage of its broadband internet service to additional countries and customers.

Right now, it seems like the beta service rollout is more hardware-constrained on the ground component side, since SpaceX opened up pre-orders to anyone in a geography it services earlier this year. Customers signing up now for the Starlink antenna and modem kit are getting delivery times that extend out to the end of this year, even in areas where service is known to be available and performing well for existing beta users.

Starlink could become a massive revenue driver for SpaceX once it’s fully operational, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said the plan is to eventually spin the company out once it’s past the initial infrastructure investment phase and revenues have stabilized. So far, customer seem to be having a positive experience with the network in terms of speed and reliability relative to other rural broadband solutions, but the next big test will come once the network is experience heavy load in terms of customer volume.

#broadband, #ceo, #elon-musk, #falcon-9, #florida, #hyperloop, #outer-space, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

SpaceX flies Falcon 9 rocket booster for a record 9th time, delivers 3rd batch of Starlink satellites in two weeks

SpaceX has delivered another 60 Starlink satellites to orbit — meaning it has sent 180 in total to join its 1,000+ strong constellation in the past two weeks alone. Today’s launch also set a record for SpaceX for its Falcon 9 rocket reusability program, since it was the ninth flight and ninth landing for this particular first-stage booster.

The booster was used previously on a variety of missions, including five prior Starlink launches, as well as the Demo-1 mission for the company’s Crew Dragon capsule, which was the uncrewed test flight that proved it would work as intended from launch all the way to docking with the International Space Station and then returning back to Earth.

SpaceX set its prior reusability record in January this year – another Starlink launch – using this very same refurbished first stage, which had just flown in December of last year before that. SpaceX not only wants to continue to show that it can re-fly these boosters more and more times, but also that it can turn them around quickly for their next mission, since both speed and volume will have a significant impact on launch costs.

Rocket reuse is of particular importance when it comes to these Starlink missions, which are happening with increasing frequency as SpaceX pushes to expand the availability of its Starlink broadband internet service globally. As mentioned, this is the third launch of 60 satellites for the constellation in just 10 days — the most recent launch happened just Thursday, and the first of this trio took place the Thursday before that.

From here, expect SpaceX to just continue to launch at roughly this pace for the next little while, since it has two more planned Starlink launches before March is over, including one tentatively set for next Sunday. As the company is its own customer for these missions, it’s eating the cost of the launches (at least until Starlink starts operating beyond its current beta and bringing in more revenue) so re-flying boosters is a good way to help mitigate the overall spend.

#aerospace, #broadband, #elon-musk, #falcon, #falcon-9, #hyperloop, #international-space-station, #outer-space, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

Democratic-led Congress gets serious about universal broadband funding

Illustration of the United States, with fiber-optic cables circling around the Earth.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Henrik5000)

Congress this week approved a $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund that schools and libraries will use to help people get Internet access at home. The fund is part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus sent to President Joe Biden yesterday after being approved by the House and Senate. Biden signed the bill into law today.

The emergency fund should help students who live in areas where broadband is available but cannot afford it. This emergency measure may just be a prelude to a $94 billion broadband package that includes $80 billion to deploy high-speed broadband to parts of the US that do not have it.

Democrats introduced the $94 billion broadband initiative yesterday—it isn’t yet clear whether or when it will pass, but such initiatives have a much better chance now that Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress. More details on the larger broadband bill are included later in this article.

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#broadband, #congress, #policy

SpaceX launches 60 new Starlink satellites just one week after the last batch

SpaceX now has 60 more Starlink satellites in orbit – it launched its latest full complement of the internet broadband spacecraft early this morning from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Just last Thursday, SpaceX launched its last batch of 60, and this past week it also confirmed that it’s expanding its beta of the Starlink internet service to additional markets around the world, including Germany and New Zealand.

This is the 21st Starlink launch overall, and the sixth this year, with as many as three more launches tentatively planned for later this month, weather and schedule permitting. The simple reason it’s pursuing such an aggressive launch pace is that the more satellites it adds to its constellation in low-Earth orbit, the more customers it can sign up and serve. Starlink is currently in beta, but it’s now open to anyone to sign up depending on geography, with SpaceX taking a deposit and offering a rough timeline on projected availability.

So far, Starlink service is open to people in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Germany and New Zealand, but the plan is to achieve “near global coverage of the populated world” by the end of this year. Adding satellites to the constellation not only helps expand geographic reach, but also improves network performance. SpaceX says that currently, the beta should provide speeds ranging from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s, with latency falling between 20ms to 40ms, but that both of those metrics should improve over the coming months as more spacecraft join the network, and as SpaceX rolls out additional ground stations.

Already, there are anecdotal reports that Starlink’s service bests the competition in rural and hard-to-reach areas where ground infrastructure for alternative services like cellular internet, or legacy satellite from geosynchronous spacecraft-based networks have been disappointing.

This launch also included a successful controlled landing of the booster used to propel the Falcon 9 rocket that carried the Starlink satellites to orbit. SpaceX landed the first stage, which flew previously on five missions, including SpaceX’s first human spaceflight mission, back at its autonomous drone landing ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

#aerospace, #broadband, #canada, #falcon, #falcon-9, #florida, #germany, #internet-service, #internet-service-providers, #new-zealand, #outer-space, #satellite, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states

Proposed law could force ISPs to stop hiding true size of monthly bills

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | McCaig)

Internet service providers could be required to release “broadband nutrition labels” with detailed information about prices, speeds, and data caps under legislation introduced by US Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.).

Craig’s “Broadband Consumer Transparency Act” would bring back expanded transparency requirements that were eliminated when then-Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai repealed net neutrality rules and deregulated the broadband industry in December 2017.

The bill “would require straightforward disclosures in an easily understandable format to help consumers better understand the services they are purchasing and protect against hidden fees and sub-standard Internet performance,” Craig said in a press release yesterday. The press release said the bill “would require sellers of broadband services to provide the following information to all consumers”:

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#broadband, #broadband-nutrition-label, #data-caps, #fcc, #policy

100Mbps uploads and downloads should be US broadband standard, senators say

Illustration of fiber-optic cables.

Enlarge / Illustration of fiber-optic cables. (credit: Getty Images | Tetra Images)

Four US senators called on the Biden administration Thursday to establish a “21st century definition of high-speed broadband” of 100Mbps both upstream and downstream. This would be a big upgrade over the Federal Communications Commission broadband standard of 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream, which was established in 2015 and never updated by former President Trump’s FCC chair, Ajit Pai.

Today’s letter was sent to FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and other federal officials by two Democrats, one independent who caucuses with Democrats, and one Republican. Noting that “the pandemic has reinforced the importance of high-speed broadband and underscored the cost of the persistent digital divide in our country,” they wrote:

Going forward, we should make every effort to spend limited federal dollars on broadband networks capable of providing sufficient download and upload speeds and quality, including low latency, high reliability, and low network jitter, for modern and emerging uses, like two-way videoconferencing, telehealth, remote learning, health IoT, and smart grid applications. Our goal for new deployment should be symmetrical speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps), allowing for limited variation when dictated by geography, topography, or unreasonable cost.

“We should also insist that new networks supported with federal funds meet this higher standard, with limited exceptions for truly hard-to-reach locations,” the senators wrote later in the letter. “For years, we have seen billions in taxpayer dollars subsidize network deployments that are outdated as soon as they are complete, lacking in capacity and failing to replace inadequate broadband infrastructure.”

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#broadband, #fcc, #policy, #upload-speed

SpaceX’s new $850 million raise confirmed in SEC filing

SpaceX hasn’t issue any public statement about the $850 million in fresh funding CNBC reported it raised last week, but a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published today confirms the round. SpaceX’s funding was said to value the company at around $74 billion, with a per-share value moon the round set at around $420.

Investment firm Sequoia led the considerable raise, and has now put over $600 million into the Elon Musk-led space company overall between this and a round it participated in in 2020, according to Bloomberg. CNBC’s report also said that a secondary sale of existing shares generated an additional $750 million in capital for the company, putting the total new money available for SpaceX’s use at $1.6 billion – not too far shy of the $2 billion it raised at a valuation of $46 billion last August.

That probably seems like a lot of money to raise in such less than a year. But few companies – private or otherwise – have the kind of capital needs of SpaceX. While it’s been able to build a thriving launch business on the money raised during the first part of its now nearly two-decade existence, that hasn’t slowed the rate at which it’s been undertaking big new projects with tremendous upfront costs.

Currently, SpaceX is rapidly building new prototypes of its Starship, a next-generation reusable rocket with multiple times the cargo capacity of its current Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 cargo nosecone. It has flown a number of prototypes – and lost two in the process due to missed landings. The company typically has at least two new prototypes under construction simultaneously, and had been operating at that pace for many months now, with a highly manual production process for both the rockets and the new engines that power them.

Meanwhile, it’s also building out Starlink – the global broadband internet satellite constellation that it wants to scale from its current 1,000+ size, to more than 12,000 for final, world-spanning coverage reach. To scale it quickly and get its service operational (which it now is, to select areas in North America), SpaceX has been launching its own dedicated Falcon 9 rockets with 60 Starlink satellites on each. Since the company is its own customer for the majority of those missions, they’re entirely operating expenditure. Musk has estimated that fully deploying Starlink will take around $10 billion.

Both of these projects – Starship and Starlink – carry massive upfront costs, but they also have a lot of potential long-term upside; hence the skyrocketing valuation as both efforts begin to produce positive results, between Starship’s high-altitude tests, and Starlink’s initial service availability.

#aerospace, #broadband, #elon-musk, #falcon, #falcon-9, #hyperloop, #north-america, #outer-space, #sequoia, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc, #u-s-securities-and-exchange-commission

SpaceX reportedly raises $850M in new funding

SpaceX has raised a fresh round of funding, totalling $850 million, per a new report by CNBC, citing sources “familiar” with the matter. The new capital brings the total valuation of the company, which is still privately-held, to around $74 billion according to the report.

This is a massive round, by most standards – but not by SpaceX’s own. The space launch company, which was founded in 2002, has raised a total of over $6 billion to date including this latest injection, with a $2 billion venture round raised last August. That funding was invested at a valuation of $46 billion, meaning the company’s value, at least in the eyes of private investors, leapt considerably in the six months separating the two raises.

SpaceX has accomplished a lot between now and then, including building its Starlink broadband constellation to more than 1,000 active satellites; launching its first operational NASA crew to the International Space Station aboard a Dragon spacecraft; launching not one, but two high-altitude flight tests of its Starship spacecraft with relatively good results; and launched its first dedicated rideshare mission, demonstrating the viability of a big potential new group of launch customers.

While the company has achieved a lot on the back of its existing capital, its recent successes no doubt provided a good base to go out and get more. That’s likely going to go to good use, since it has plenty of work yet to do, like continued develop of Starship to prove out its space-worthiness, and the capital-intensive activity of building Starlink into a true, globe-spanning network.

#aerospace, #broadband, #falcon-9, #funding, #hyperloop, #international-space-station, #outer-space, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #starship, #tc

SpaceX launches 60 more satellites for its Starlink service on the heels of opening up access

SpaceX has launched yet another batch of Starlink satellites – a full complement of 60, the standard size for its current Falcon 9-based Starlink missions. This brings SpaceX’s total to just around 1,000 in active on orbit, taking into account the handful that were experimental or have been de-orbited to date. This follows SpaceX’s opening of orders for Starlink to anyone in a current or planned coverage zone.

Starlink is a global satellite-based data network powered by small, low-Earth orbit satellites. Historically, broadband satellites have been large, expensive spacecraft positioned much further out from Earth in a fixed orbit, providing service to a single coverage area. Because of their distance from Earth and the way they connect to base stations, coverage has been very high-latency and relatively inconsistent (which you’ll recognize if you’ve ever tried to use Wifi on a flight, for instance). SpaceX’s constellation-based approach sees the satellites positioned much closer to Earth, which improves latency, and also has the satellites orbiting Earth and handing off connections between one another, which in theory provides more consistent coverage – particularly as the size of the constellation grows.

Eventually, SpaceX intends to provide coverage globally from Starlink, with an emphasis on offering service to areas. where coverage has been weak due to ground infrastructure challenges in past. For now, however, coverage is limited, though SpaceX recently expanded its closed beta to an open one, with anyone able to sign up via the Starlink website after an address check, and place an order, including a deposit with the full amount for the hardware kit to be charged once it ships.

Starlink’s hardware includes a small satellite receiver dish for installation by the customer at their service address. The service itself costs $99 per month, while the equipment is $499 (one-time fee). This does seem steep, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter recently that the plan is to have the costs come down over time, once the significant initial investment is recouped. He also noted that the plan is still to spin off Starlink and have it IPO eventually, once the company “can predict cash flow reasonably well.”

#aerospace, #broadband, #ceo, #elon-musk, #falcon-9, #hyperloop, #internet-service-providers, #outer-space, #satellite, #small-satellite, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc