A group of satellite broadband providers -- Dish Network, EchoStar Technologies, ViaSat/Wildblue Communications and Hughes Network Systems -- told the Federal Communications Commission that they should be allowed to participate in the Connect America Fund.
The FCC is reforming the Universal Service Fund, which has been supporting traditional phone, to subsidizing broadband in unserved areas via the new Connect America Fund.
According to the satellite operators, there are no technical reasons to exclude satellite broadband providers from obtaining funds under the revised regime.
"Greater reliance on satellite broadband to achieve universal service goals is entirely consistent with the proposed principles," the satellite providers said in comments filed Monday. "The Administration and the Commission have made ubiquitous broadband a national priority, and satellite broadband providers hold the key to achieving these ambitious goals on a timely and cost-effective basis."
The companies continued, "No provider -- terrestrial or satellite -- currently possesses infrastructure or capacity sufficient to extend broadband service to every unserved household... The relevant question is not whether satellite broadband providers can solve the nation's broadband concerns with currently committed capacity, but rather whether satellite broadband providers should be permitted to compete on an equal basis with other providers for funding to add the capacity needed to serve the unserved. Unquestionably, they should be allowed to do so."
The satellite providers noted they support broadband applications, including voice over IP, streaming video and HD video conferencing.
The FCC will achieve its goals of universal broadband access more cost-effectively by allowing satellite broadband providers' participation, Dish, EchoStar, ViaSat/Wildblue and Hughes said. The commission "should exercise its statutory authority to make support available to non-common carrier broadband providers," they said. "There should be federal procedures to designate nationwide broadband providers as [eligible telecommunications carriers] in all states, consistent with the Commission's authority under section 214(e)(6)."
According to the satellite companies, it would be possible to deploy enough satellite capacity to provide broadband service with at least 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream to all the unserved household in the U.S. -- estimated to be up to 24 million people -- at an overall cost well below the $24 billion estimated required funding for the Connect America Fund.