US to Spend $42B on Broadband Equity: Will Satellite Be Included?

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — It seems like a simple enough question: What role will satellite play in the recently-announced $42.5 billion broadband funding program to help close the digital divide in the United States?

From a technological standpoint, today’s satellite broadband offers anywhere connectivity, high speeds and high throughput. From a cost perspective, the price per Gbps is almost half what it was a decade ago, while fiber costs have been rising.

Yet, satellite has received only a tiny portion of state and federal subsidies to connect the unconnected in hard-to-reach places. With technologies advancing and the number of satellite broadband subscribers growing, the question becomes: why?

“I think there’s a breakpoint at which it makes sense to go to fiber optics,” explained Karen Jones, senior project leader in the Center for Space Policy and Strategy at The Aerospace Corporation. Population size, proximity to terrestrial infrastructure, even latitude can affect that balance. “But [fiber] is not practical for every place on the planet. When you start to look at some of these rural areas, satellite needs to be part of the equation.”

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