Amazon is trying to get a waiver to FCC rules that companies like SpaceX and OneWeb had to follow.
Motherboard has the details:
When Amazon confirmed it was planning to launch 3,236 broadband internet-beaming satellites into low-Earth orbit, much of the media reported it as if it were a done deal—the latest, inevitable step in the corporation’s quest to conquer commerce, the cloud, and beyond.
Amazon officials said the massive satellite constellation, called Project Kuiper, would one day provide low-latency, high-speed broadband to tens of millions of underserved people around the world, no doubt also connecting them to the wide world of Amazon offerings.
But before Project Kuiper can launch, it must receive approval from the Federal Communications Commission to operate within a certain frequency spectrum. In an application filed this July, Amazon requested a special waiver to FCC rules that would grant it the necessary permission. The problem, though, is that the FCC already handed out licenses to that spectrum years ago to nine other satellite internet companies in a different, more complicated process.
Those companies—including SpaceX and OneWeb—are now lobbying the FCC to deny Amazon’s waiver request, according to FCC records. If successful, they could significantly reduce Project Kuiper’s viability in an already oversaturated market.
Top SpaceX officials have met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and other agency staff at least three times to lodge in-person complaints about Project Kuiper’s application, according to FCC records. The first meeting came several weeks after Amazon filed its application, the most recent took place on Dec. 2 and 3.
“Amazon’s overt attempt to override long-standing rules would undermine confidence in Commission processes, harm competition, and eliminate broadband options for consumers,” SpaceX lawyers wrote in a Nov. 25 filing. Project Kuiper would have a “significant detrimental impact [on] SpaceX … Amazon’s flawed analysis yields results that defy common sense.”
Industry experts said Amazon’s request is unorthodox, but there’s a clear reason why the company has tried a backdoor route to gain access to the coveted spectrum.
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“I’d sort of written Amazon off as not being viable simply because they hadn’t gotten started and these other guys—SpaceX, OneWeb—are already putting satellites up,” Roger Rusch, a satellite and telecommunications consultant with TelAstra told Motherboard. “By the time Amazon gets started, they’re already probably going to be years behind them.