FCC Commissioner Says Agency Engaging in ‘Regulatory Harassment’ of Elon Musk

Katabella Roberts
By Katabella Roberts
December 13, 2023US News
FCC Commissioner Says Agency Engaging in ‘Regulatory Harassment’ of Elon Musk
Elon Musk departs following a meeting in the office of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Sept. 13, 2023. (Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has joined a growing list of federal agencies engaging in the “regulatory harassment” of businessman Elon Musk, according to a senior Republican with the agency.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr made the claim in a dissenting statement published on Dec. 12 after the FCC reaffirmed a previous decision not to award SpaceX satellite internet unit Starlink $885.5 million in subsidies aimed at bringing broadband internet to underserved rural areas in the United States.

Mr. Musk’s Starlink operates a network of satellites providing broadband internet access throughout the world.

“Last year, after Elon Musk acquired Twitter and used it to voice his own political and ideological views without a filter, President [Joe] Biden gave federal agencies a green light to go after him,” Mr. Carr began his statement.

The FCC commissioner went on to reference a White House press conference in November last year during which President Biden told reporters that Mr. Musk’s relationships with other countries are “worthy of being looked at.”

At the time, President Biden stressed that while he was not suggesting the billionaire businessman was doing anything “inappropriate” when it comes to his cooperation or technical relationships with other countries, his connections and business relations with various nations were still worthy of scrutiny.

“There certainly are. The Department of Justice, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have all initiated investigations into Elon Musk or his businesses,” Mr. Carr, who previously served as the FCC’s general counsel, continued in his letter.

“Today, the Federal Communications Commission adds itself to the growing list of administrative agencies that are taking action against Elon Musk’s businesses,” he continued. “I am not the first to notice a pattern here.”

SpaceX ‘Failed to Meet Burden’

Mr. Carr’s comments came after the FCC announced on Dec. 12 that it would not award a $85.5 million subsidy to SpaceX as part of the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program to be used to expand broadband service in rural areas.

In a press release, the agency said the decision was based on SpaceX’s failure to meet basic program requirements.

Starlink had won the initial subsidy in 2020. The $85.5 million is funded by the RDOF, which has so far authorized more than $6 billion in funding to bring primarily fiber gigabit broadband service to over 3,458,000 locations in 49 states and the Northern Mariana Islands.

However, the agency also said Tuesday that Starlink “failed to demonstrate that it could deliver the promised service” and that it had ultimately concluded funding the vast proposed networks would “not be the best use of limited Universal Service Fund dollars to bring broadband to unserved areas across the United States.”

The latest reason provided by the agency is similar to a decision the agency reached in 2022, which was based on a speed test after Starlink had agreed to provide high-speed internet service to 642,000 rural homes and businesses in 35 states.

That decision led to an appeal by SpaceX.

“The FCC is tasked with ensuring consumers everywhere have access to high-speed broadband that is reliable and affordable. The agency also has a responsibility to be a good steward of limited public funds meant to expand access to rural broadband, not fund applicants that fail to meet basic program requirements,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement. “The FCC followed a careful legal, technical, and policy review to determine that this applicant had failed to meet its burden to be entitled to nearly $900 million in universal service funds for almost a decade.”

NTD Photo
Brendan Carr, commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee hearing in Washington, on March 31, 2022. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

FCC’s Decision ‘Doesn’t Make Sense’

In his dissenting statement, Mr. Carr cited a Wall Street Journal article published earlier this year which stated that the growing volume of government investigations into Mr. Musk and his multiple businesses raised concerns over whether “the Biden Administration is targeting him for regulatory harassment.”

“Today’s decision certainly fits the Biden Administration’s pattern of regulatory harassment,” he wrote, adding that the outcome “cannot be explained by any objective application of law, facts, or policy.”

The FCC regulates interstate and international communications by radio, TV, satellite, cable, and more in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. The commission is made up of five members.

Another Republican FCC commissioner, Nathan Simington, also dissented from Tuesday’s decision.

In a separate statement, Mr. Simington noted that Starlink had about 2 million subscribers in September 2023 and that its technology is “proven.”

“The proof is the millions of subscribers—many in areas that other providers and the FCC have failed to serve for decades—already receiving high-quality broadband service through Starlink. And SpaceX continues to put more satellites into orbit every month, which should translate to even faster and more reliable service,” he wrote.

“If this is what passes for due process and the rule of law at the FCC, then this agency ought not to be trusted with the adjudicatory powers Congress has granted it and the deference that the courts have given it,” the commissioner concluded.

SpaceX said it was “deeply disappointed and perplexed” by the FCC decision, adding Starlink “is demonstrably one of the best options—likely the best option” for the rural internet program.

Elsewhere, Mr. Musk said Tuesday that the FCC’s decision “doesn’t make sense.”

“Starlink is the only company actually solving rural broadband at scale! They should arguably dissolve the program and return funds to taxpayers, but definitely not send it [to] those who aren’t getting the job done,” the Tesla CEO wrote.

The businessman also claimed that “the companies that lobbied for this massive earmark (not us) thought they would win, but instead were outperformed by Starlink, so now they’re changing the rules to prevent SpaceX from competing.”

The Epoch Times has contacted the FCC for further comment.

Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.