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FCC chair backs SpaceX plan to provide broadband by satellite

The Hill logo The Hill 2/14/2018 Ali Breland

a man holding a sign © Provided by The Hill Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is backing a proposal from Elon Musk's SpaceX to provide broadband using satellites.

"To bridge America's digital divide, we'll have to use innovative technologies," Pai said in a statement on Wednesday. "Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach."

Pai also said the proposal would increase competition among internet service providers, and he encouraged the agency's commissioners to approve an application from SpaceX to begin the project.

According to the FCC, if the proposal is approved, it would be the first time an American company has been given permission to use low-Earth orbit satellites for providing broadband.

Other companies like OneWeb, Space Norway and Telesat are also pursuing similar projects, which have been approved by the FCC.

SpaceX is planning to launch several test broadband satellites on Saturday.

At a Senate hearing in May, Patricia Cooper, vice president of satellite government affairs at SpaceX, detailed the company's plan to launch 4,425 operational satellites from 2019 to 2024 to build the broadband network.

Cooper said satellites could help provide broadband access to rural communities.

"The common challenges associated with siting, digging trenches, laying fiber, and dealing with property rights are materially alleviated through a space-based broadband network," she said.

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