The FCC Just Gave SpaceX the Go-Ahead to Build a Space Internet

Photo: Getty

It looks like we may have a winner in America’s great internet space race. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) just authorized SpaceX to launch its broadband satellite service, Starlink. That means Americans could be accessing the internet from space as early as 2019. We’ll literally just be pointing our phones at the sky and going online.

Just kidding, you don’t actually have to point your phone at the sky to enjoy space internet. The Starlink service will work a lot like wi-fi, except instead of needing to find a hot spot, entire sections of the country could get internet access. The proposed system will include 4,425 low-orbit satellites that will beam connectivity with frequencies in the Ka and Ku bands. It actually works exactly like the wireless service on many airplanes, except SpaceX promises fiber-fast speeds. The system is expected to go online next year, after SpaceX gets at least 800 satellites in orbit.


“We appreciate the FCC’s thorough review and approval of SpaceX’s constellation license,” said Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer at SpaceX. “Although we still have much to do with this complex undertaking, this is an important step toward SpaceX building a next-generation satellite network that can link the globe with reliable and affordable broadband service, especially reaching those who are not yet connected.”

Even though everybody loves fast wi-fi, Shotwell really highlights what’s most exciting about this new space internet. It’s going to make connectivity possible in places that might not even get dialup service. According to the FCC, some 34.5 million Americans don’t have access to fixed and mobile broadband where they live. This includes rural areas as well as parts of cities that have been neglected by the Comcasts and Charters of the world. Starlink also stands to increase competition in the historically monopoly-driven internet business. After all, the majority of Americans only have one choice for an internet provider. The new SpaceX system could fix this.

Of course, all of this is somewhat speculative. We know that space internet is a thing that can work. It is also, however, a very futuristic undertaking that’s practically without precedent. Will Starlink be as fast as SpaceX says it will be? Will it reach all the people who need it? We’ll have to wait until Elon Musk and friends fire a few more rockets into the heavens to find out.



Share This Story

Get our newsletter

About the author

Adam Clark Estes

Senior editor at Gizmodo.

PGP Fingerprint: 91CF B387 7B38 148C DDD6 38D2 6CBC 1E46 1DBF 22A8PGP Key
OTR Fingerprint: D9330D9B 6CF5E271 7FAC6194 DAA9B51B E09A99B2